Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mini-Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication date: April 1, 2014
Rating: ★★★★

Summary (via Goodreads):

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a book for people who love books. It's a whimsical and charming story, filled with insights into literature that remind us why books matter. The chapters are broken up with book blurbs written by bookseller A.J. Fikry. They feature his opinions on books and short stories and serve as letters to the people he comes to love best.

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

There's a sing-song quality in Gabrielle Zevin's writing that makes you feel like you're watching a Wes Anderson film. It's candid but theatrical somehow.

This is the type of book you read while sipping on a cup of tea, or while you're eating that turkey sandwich you made for lunch. It's the type of book you may enjoy best surrounded in normalcy, because it is a book of ordinary lives made extraordinary by the people in it. The connections between neighbors, the slow change in our perception of people, the slow change in ourselves – all of these things come alive in this book.

Written in third person perspective, we get a glimpse into many characters' lives. However, because of this "otherly" view, there is always a distance between us and this cast of characters. It's a gap that becomes difficult to bridge, which is why I'm giving this four stars.

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. We are not alone.
My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart.
We are not quite novels.
The analogy he is looking for is almost there.
We are not quite short stories. At this point, his life is seeming closest to that.
In the end, we are collected works.

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