The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry,
by Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Algonquin Books
272 pages, Kindle Edition
Published April 2014
Typically I do not enjoy warm-hearted, feel-good stories, but there are always exceptions that avoid becoming saccharine and remain sincere. “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” is a novel that I rapidly fell in love with. The writing is not fancy, though filled with literary allusions, most basically in its structure with chapters named after key famous short stories. Between this construction and the overall plot, the novel is simply full of passion for all things bibliophilic.
A key strength of the novel is in its eponymous protagonist, a persnickety bookseller who doesn’t get along well with most people and is in the midst of alcohol-infused mourning over the death of his wife. The growth of Fikry from this state to the ultimate person he becomes, mediated through the unexpected appearance of a baby girl in his life, is a pleasure to read, reminding one what can be good and beautiful about people and the power that literature can have over lives. While reading this (and several other things) I found myself most eager to return to these pages and these characters who even evoked several laughs and smirks as I got to know their quirks.
I’m not at all surprised that Zevin has written children’s books, because this novel in a sense IS a children’s book: a simple story filled with joy and heart and wonder at life, a life filled with books, a life well-lived.