Ahoy there me mateys! Aye, me first read of the year is neither fantasy nor sci-fi. But on the plus side it is set in a bookstore. I have been meaning to read this for forever and then the audiobook I had been on a wait list for was automatically checked out to me. So here we are.
This ended up being a very uneven read for me with the balance being on the negative side. There were parts I loved and there were parts that I didn’t love at all. What I loved best about this book was the first third. A.J. Fikry is a grumpy bookseller on a small island who has very pointed views about how life should be lived and what books should be read. He is set in his ways. Ye are first introduced to him through a young woman, Amelia, who is promoting her publisher’s current catalog. He is not nice.
Fikry’s life is falling apart and he is on the verge of giving up when a toddler is left in his bookstore with a note. His life changes then and there. Watching Fikry’s life change for the better was refreshing. I adore his relationship with Maya and watching it grow. I also really loved Amelia and Lambaise. The book basically goes through Fikry’s entire life with the reader seeing the major highlights.
The parts I didn’t like had mostly to do with character and writing style. I absolutely didn’t like Ismay’s character or her entire subplot. I get that it was part of the whole twist at the end but it didn’t work for me. I wanted her to go away. As for writing style, it was obvious that the author has a love of literature and the book is sprinkled with nuggets of book fun. But there are sections of Fikry’s ranting that were snobbish and rude. Characters in the book even comment that Fikry makes them feel dumb. The author did metatextual things with the writing in this regard that I didn’t care for. And the ending. I didn’t like the entire end of Fikry’s life or what happens to the others once he is gone.
That said, I do understand why people love this one. I am glad they love this one. I just wish that it would have worked out better for me. No regrets about readin’ this but I won’t ever reread it.
Side note: It feels so very good to be caught up on reviews and be writing a post for one book at a time!
Goodreads’ website has this to say about the novel:
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.
We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.
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 Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry 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, he 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, though large in weight—an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. 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., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, 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
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