Reviews for Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Booklist Reviews 2014 February #2
In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books. A. J. Fikry, the cantankerous owner of Island Books, is despondent after losing his beloved wife and witnessing the ever-declining number of sales at his small, quirky bookstore. In short order, he loses all patience with the new Knightly Press sales rep, his prized rare edition of Tamerlane is stolen, and someone leaves a baby at his store. That baby immediately steals A. J.'s heart and unleashes a dramatic transformation. Suddenly, the picture-book section is overflowing with new titles, and the bookstore becomes home to a burgeoning number of book clubs. With business on the uptick and love in his heart, A. J. finds himself becoming an essential new part of his longtime community, going so far as to woo the aforementioned sales rep (who loves drinking Queequeg cocktails at the Pequod Restaurant). Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, wonderful critiques of classic titles, and very funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

"ForeWord Magazine Reviews 2014 - Spring Issue: March 1, 2014"

Eccentric book banter tickles the reader, bringing a bookseller to life through humor and dialogue.

Even the stories have stories in Gabrielle Zevin's thoroughly charming novel, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Open the doors at bookseller AJ Fikry's Island Books and find tragedy, comedy, romance, mystery, and more. Open this book and find an affectionate portrait of a curmudgeonly bookseller who faces loss through literature, with surprising results.

Readers who delighted in the eccentric neighbors in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, will get the same feeling from AJ Fikry's community at Alice Island in a small, tucked-away corner of New England. Although Zevin's story is not historical fiction, it carries an old-fashioned, small-town feel. If there's an accident, it's probably Chief Lambiase you'll talk to. He'll call your sister-in-law to help you. She'll let herself into your apartment above the bookstore because you never lock the front door. Others seem to know what you need before you do.

Just because it's a small town doesn't mean nothing ever happens, however. That open-door policy lets in a lot more than well-meaning relatives, things that will turn life around for the man who keeps a rare volume of Poe in a climate-controlled case but hates the uber-cheerful Muppet Elmo because he's "too needy." Zevin never explicitly tells us what AJ is like but rather shows us through unique--and often humorous--details like these.

AJ's personality also shines through in the "shelf talkers" scattered throughout the narrative. While most of the book is written in the third person, here AJ gets a chance to talk to us directly. In each of these notes, the book lover describes a piece of classic fiction, his take on it, and his prediction of the reader's reaction. From Flannery O'Connor to Roald Dahl, AJ's notes on works reveal important bits of his own story as it unfolds. It's fascinating to speculate about exactly who he is writing these notes for, and why.<[Mon May 2 23:14:48 2016] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. /p>

After each shelf talker, we get right back to the story in progress, and a lively story it is, told largely through dialogue. Each character has a unique voice, which comes through clearly in peppy conversations. The topic of many conversations is literature, with AJ himself in the lead in comparing real life to books and finding life wanting. Book lovers will be thrilled by each literary reference (though they do lie a bit thick on the ground at certain points), but the book banter generally feels natural and always serves to move the story along.

© 2014 Foreword Magazine, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Kirkus Reviews 2014 February #2
Zevin (Margarettown, 2006, etc.) chronicles the life of A. J. Fikry, a man who holds no brief for random acts, who yearns for a distinct narrative, who flounders about until his life is reordered by happenstance. Fikry owns Island Books on Alice Island, a summer destination off Massachusetts—think Nantucket. He's not yet 40 but already widowed, his wife, Nic, dead in an auto accident. Fikry drinks. Island Books drifts toward bankruptcy. Then, within a span of days, his rare copy of Poe's Tamerlane (worth $400,000) is stolen, and 2-year-old Maya is deposited at his bookstore. Fikry cannot bear to leave the precocious child to the system once it becomes apparent her single mother has drowned herself in the sea. He adopts Maya, spurred by her immediate attachment to him. That decision detours "his plan to drink himself to death" and reinvigorates his life and his bookstore. Add Amelia Loman, quirky traveling sales representative for Knightley Press, and a romance that takes four years to begin, and there's a Nicholas Sparks quality to this novel about people who love books but who cannot find someone to love. With a wry appreciation for the travails of bookstore owners—A. J. doesn't like e-readers—Zevin writes characters of a type, certainly, but ones who nonetheless inspire empathy. Among others, there are the bright and sweet-natured Maya, who morphs into an insecure but still precocious teenager; Lambiase, local police chief who finds in Firky the friend who expands his life; A. J's brother-in-law, Daniel Parish, a once–best-selling author riding out a descending career arc; and Daniel's wife, Ismay, who sees A. J. as everything Daniel should be. All fit the milieu perfectly in a plot that spins out as expected, bookended by tragedy. Zevin writes characters who grow and prosper, mainly A. J. and Lambiase, in a narrative that is sometimes sentimental, sometimes funny, sometimes true to life and always entertaining. A likable literary love story about selling books and finding love. Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2014 February #1

A.J. Fikry is the owner of Island Books on Alice Island (think Martha's Vineyard) near Hyannis, MA. Over his porch hangs the faded sign "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A.J. is a young widower, struggling to keep the bookstore afloat and his increasingly lonely life intact. Matchmaking attempts by the islanders for Fikry have failed miserably. His prickly reactions to friends and customers have discouraged attempts to help him heal. Even the publishers' sales reps who call on the store cringe at his strident and curmudgeonly manner. Then one day A.J. discovers in his store a child abandoned by her mother, and his life takes a surprising turn. Maya is a bright and precocious two-year-old who steals his heart. As word spreads of his efforts at single parenting, the store becomes a community focus once again, and everyone takes a hand in raising young Maya--including a charming rep who had been so gruffly chased away. VERDICT Readers who delighted in Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Jessica Brockmole's Letters from Skye will be equally captivated by this adult novel by a popular YA author about a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving, it reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love.--Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2014 January #3

The only thing that's "storied" in the life of A.J. Fikry, a curmudgeonly independent bookseller, in this funny, sad novel from Zevin (The Hole We're In), is his obvious love of literature--particularly short stories. Fikry runs Island Books, located on Alice Island, a fictional version of Martha's Vineyard. It's a "persnickety little bookstore," in the words of Amelia Loman, the new sales rep for Knightley Press. Her first meeting with Fikry does not go well. He's disgruntled by the state of publishing, and bereft because his beloved wife, Nic, recently died in a car accident. Soon after the meeting, he suffers another loss: a rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's poem Tamerlane (Fikry's primary retirement asset) goes missing. But then Fikry finds an abandoned toddler in his bookstore with a note saying, "This is Maya. She is twenty-five months old." Somewhat unbelievably, Maya ends up in his care and, predictably enough, opens the irascible bookseller's heart. The surprisingly expansive story includes a romance between Fikry and Amelia, and follows Maya to the age of 18 before arriving at a bittersweet denouement. Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)

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