The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

October 12, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads)

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


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is irresistibly quotable. Take this passage, for example:

Every word the right one and exactly where it should be. That’s basically the highest compliment I can give.

That’s pretty much the best review of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry itself, and far more concise than I could be. I’ve mentioned before that it’s hard to write about a book that I love, though I could write hundreds of words on books I hate. Or, in the words of A.J.:

A question I’ve thought about a great deal is why it is so much easier to write about the things we dislike/hate/acknowledge to be flawed than the things we love.

The book is about A.J. Fikry, a widowed, cantankerous proprietor of a small bookstore on an island that is a tourist destination. He sells what he feels like people should be reading, not the latest bestsellers, and certainly not anything with vampires in it:

I’d argue that most people have terrible taste. When left to their own devices — literally their own devices — they read crap and they don’t know the difference.

One day, he returns from his morning run to find a two-year-old girl abandoned in his bookstore, a girl with a huge heart. Over time, A.J. finds that Maya’s heart is so huge, it has broken through and consumed his own, as well:

At first, he thinks this is happiness, but then he determines it’s love. Fucking love, he thinks. What a bother. It’s completely gotten in the way of his plan to drink himself to death, to drive his business to ruin.

Once he has let Maya into his life and his heart, everything begins to change:

The most annoying thing about it is that once a person gives a shit about one thing, he finds he has to start giving a shit about everything.

Zevin is a remarkable writer, one who writes with an economy of style and story that reminds me of Jerry Spinelli:

He is a reader, and what he believes in is narrative construction. If a gun appears in act one, that gun had better go off by act three.

Zevin also writes characters who are real, characters who you would want to befriend if you knew them in real life:

The words you can’t find, you borrow. We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone.

This is a book about books, reading, and life, and how stories bring us together:

They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a wonderful book that has so much to say. It could be used as shorthand between people who know it:

People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?

For as much as this book talks about books and reading, though, this book is about love, and what’s more important than love?

We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on.


1 Comment

  1. 2016: A Review | Veni Vidi Verkisto said,

    […] The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry […]

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