Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I read this book while I was sick with the flu last week and found it both exhilarating and heart rending all at once.  It was a unique book that really pulled me in.  The story is so fascinating that when I started explaining it to my husband all three of my kids ages seven to eleven were enraptured and wanted to know how it ended.  Seven-year-old Penelope told me I need to read it to her – I told her she has a few years left before she’s old enough!

A.J. Fikry is at a low point in life.  His beloved wife has died in a car accident and business is down at his book store.  He spends his evenings in a drunken passed out stupor.  He hits another low point when the Tamerlane, a rare and valuable collection of 1st edition Poe poems is stolen from his apartment.  Then through a series of events, A.J. finds something to believe in again and continue his life.  His book store becomes a rare haven where you can find a good book selection from AJ himself and where book clubs groups including the Chief’s Special. Police chief Lambiase not only becomes a friend, but a great reader as well. 
Between each chapter, A.J. describes a particular short story that has spoken to him through his life.  I was pleased that many of the short stories I have read as well and thought were fantastic.  It made me realize I really need to read short stories again.

A.J. himself was a crotchety character, but I loved reading about him and his transformation.  I loved all the other characters as well.  I enjoyed that they were all linked by the love of books, reading, writing, selling, publishing – it was so interesting!  I also loved that the book was a swan song about the printed word and about small independent bookstores.  I love bookstores, nothing can replace them!  The storyline was very unique and I enjoyed it.  I’ll admit I shed a tear at the end of this book!

I enjoyed that the book had additional information in the back including a conversation with the author and book club questions.  I’ve had this book on my “to read” list for quite some time, but I finally read it as the new Kewaunee Library Book Club has picked it for this month’s selection.  I hope I make it back from work in time to attend.  I was in the previous incarnation of the Kewaunee Library Book Club for six years until its dissolution in 2012.  I think this book will lead to interesting discussion.

Favorite Quotes:

“What is the point of bad dates if not to have amusing anecdotes for your friends?”

“Remember, Maya:  the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same thing we will respond to at forty and vice versa.  This is true in books and in life.”

“A sentence occurs to her:  The day my father shook my hand, I knew I was a writer.”

“We read to know we’re not alone.  WE read because we are alone.  WE read and we are not alone.  We are not alone.”

“No man is an island; every book is a world.” – Island Books slogan

Overall, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an engaging read - sentimental, romantic, funny, mysterious and a love story to all lovers of books.  I highly recommend it.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!


  1. Laura, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry sounds wonderful, especially for those of us who truly love stories about books and reading. I enjoyed the quotations greatly. Excellent review!

  2. This sounds like such a good read. A real story in every sense of the word.

  3. As usual, a good piece of writing. Being a lover of writing, i cannot pay a blind eye to any such articles. Everyone's life is a big story. In that way, the title, "Storied Life" is thought provoking. Enjoyed reading it. Get in touch with Custom Essay Writing Service for in-depth analysis on poetry.

  4. Love all those quotes you chose! And the fact that this novel seems to center around a bookstore and decidedly bookish characters only makes me want to read it even more. Great review! :)

  5. Thank-you all! It did make for a good book club discussion as well. We all enjoyed the novel, but all took something different away from it.