Saturday, 25 April 2015

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

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle ZevinThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (proof) - Originally published as The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry.

"Who the hell are you?" A.J. asks the baby.

For no apparent reason, she stops crying and smiles at him. "Maya," she answers.

That was easy, A.J. thinks. "How old are you?" he asks.

Maya holds up two fingers.

"You're two?"

Maya smiles again and holds up her arms to him.

A.J. Fikry, the grumpy owner of Island Books, is going through a hard time: his bookshop is failing, he has lost his beloved wife, and a prized rare first edition has been stolen.

But one day A.J. finds two-year-old Maya sitting on the bookshop floor, with a note attached to her asking the owner to look after her. His life - and Maya's - is changed forever.
From Goodreads.

I first heard The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin at work when my colleagues were discussing reading the US edition. I thought it sounded amazing, so when I was offered a chance to review it, I jumped at the chance. And I'm so pleased to say it's an absolutely incredible book!

A.J. Fikry owns and runs Island Books, a small indie bookstore on Alice Island. His wife died a year and a half ago, and he's all but given up. He's curmudgeonly and has no patience for anyone. The only bright spark in his life is that he owns a very rare first edition of Tamerlane by Poe, which he plans to sell so he can retire early. One night it's stolen, and he's left with nothing. Except for Maya, a little girl who is abandoned in his store by her mother. Their lives are about to change drastically.

My description above barely covers the story, but to say any more would be to ruin how wonderful it is to discover the story yourself. The characters are individual and quirky, the plot is charming, and the narrative is amusing. As A.J. runs a bookstore, various books are mentioned throughout, and there is such love and enthusiasm for reading and the written word, it's fantastic. A book that talks about and understands this passion I have!

The novel is told in third person, mostly from A.J.'s point of view, but it does jump between the characters. A.J. is such a great character, and seeing how he changes throughout the story is just wonderful. He is so past caring about pretty much anything at the beginning after losing his wife, and the theft of his rare copy of Tamerlane is the final straw. But when Maya comes into his life, everything changes. He's pulled out of the dark hole he's in by her small little hand, and is remembers what joy and love are. Maya is the cutest little girl, and so precocious. Even though she's unable to string together full sentences, she understands enough to get across how she feels and what she wants, and she's just adorable! Chief Lambiase and Amelia are two of the other prominent characters in the story, and I love them both too!

One of my favourite aspects of the novel is how amusing it is. Even when tragic, Zevin writes the story with a comical tone, so nothing is too sad, and there's always something to make you smile. This isn't as awful as it sounds; it's not Zevin making light of or laughing at the characters' misfortunes, but more the ability of the characters to make themselves the butt of a joke, to laugh at themselves. It's not depressing, but charming and poignant. There are ups as well as downs, though, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is quite an amusing story, as well as beautiful.

With a story set around a love of reading, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an amusing and beautiful novel for book lovers everywhere. If you read, you must read this book!

Thank you to Abacus for sending me the proof.

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Published: 23rd April 2015
Publisher: Abacus
Gabrielle Zevin's Website

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