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

April 20, 2014 Reviews 3 ★★★★★

Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle ZevinThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill on 1 April 2014
Genres: Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 260
Source: Netgalley
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

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. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.


I don’t know where to begin. I knew a few pages in that I would love this book. It is a love letter to books, reading and readers, and I am obviously a reader. So I suppose it was inevitable that I would love it.

A.J Fikry is the owner of a small, struggling bookstore on Alice Island. His wife has recently died; he has lost a very valuable collection of poetry and seems to be determined to drink himself into an early grave. Then one day a mysterious package arrives at his door, and he can’t ignore it. His life is about to change.

The story is quite simple. It has love and loss; romance and humour; even a little mystery thrown into the mix, but at its heart, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a novel about books. Books frame every action and every character in the novel. It is a bibliophile’s delight. Gabrielle Zevin makes so many literary references in this book, and the great thing is they are not obscure. At one point she even talks about a YA vampire series (which sounds very much like Twilight). It was fun recognising the names of books and going “Hey! I’ve read that!”

I am sure there will be a few book snobs ranting about the substance of this book – the characters are one-dimensional – blah blah blah. When you are having as much fun as I did reading this – who really cares?

The characters are quirky and loveable, the setting is quaint and the plot is hopeful, and an innate love of books radiates through every page. It is simply wonderful.

five-stars – Simply Wonderful!

Natasha lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and son. She is a self confessed bibliophile who enjoys literature and adult fiction. She also loves travelling and aims to visit 40 countries by the time she is 40 (current count 36).

3 Responses to “Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin”

    • Natasha

      Haha, agreed Michael – I would have preferred “The Collected Works” title, but this was the ARC I was granted. We have to make do I suppose.

      I used to be a lit snob too, only Rushdie, Atwood, McEwan types for me please – then I had a baby and realised the wonderful escapism ‘fluff fiction’ can offer. Although I still hate to admit that I read any YA fiction (that can be our little secret). It doesn’t quite satiate the soul the way a beautifully written literary novel does.

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