The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin

ajA place ain’t a place without a bookstore…

AJ Fikry is a persnickety book seller with very specific reading tastes, but he is most partial to short stories. Having lost his wife Nicole, AJ has slowly been shutting himself away from his friends and family, and nearly driving his book store, Island Books, into the ground. All at once, his life changes more than AJ could ever believe. He loses a book worth $400,000, and he finds a two year old in his store, abandoned by her mother. AJ soon learns that it is never too late to thaw even the iciest of souls.

This TINY BOOK will make you SO HAPPY and feel so many things at once. I read a good chunk of this just on train rides and breaks from work, and it pained me to stop every time. AJ and Amelia and Maya were some of the best characters I’ve ever read, and their love for books made them even better. There were also so many quotes, I had to stop so often to underline them all! Seriously, if you love books about books and people who love them and people who write them, this will have something (many things) for you, but I would recommend this to anyone just looking for a good story.

NOW. Katie, at Words for Worms has a fun internet book club type thing, The Fellowship of the Worms, that she hosts every month, and this month’s book just so happened to be AJ’s. I’m a little behind on this, but I decided to join in on the question answering part with the Worms! If you don’t want anything ruined for you, turn back now!

1. First things first. How much did you love all the book references? A.J. was constantly talking about the books he carried in his store, the books he recommended to his customers, the books he despised. What was your favorite book reference moment? I seriously couldn’t believe when the grumpy grandma returning a book was angry about The Book Thief. I was laughing out loud because I remember her plight all too well, having had my own up-all-night-sobfest when I read that! This wasn’t a book reference, but I LOVED Lambiase, and the way he became a reader and formed the Chief’s Choice book club!! Who are these people who think a book comes with a guarantee that they will like it?

2. How much did you love the AJ and Maya relationship? UM, A lot. Especially when she was a baby, Maya said the funniest things. It was amazing to watch how she transformed AJ’s life, even after a few WEEKS, and especially as the book went on. From only stocking books he enjoys, to hosting book groups and making sure to stock something for everyone, AJ did a complete 360. I have to say though, when I first started reading, I thought he was just making a list of books for Maya to read when she grew up, I had no idea about what was coming. The most annoying thing about it is that once a person gives a shit about one thing, he finds he has to start giving a shit about everything.

3How did you like AJ and Amelia’s love story? Did you find it believable that such an intense relationship could develop at a distance, especially considering the rocky start they had? AJ was pretty mean to Amelia that first day, but I think as their relationship grew she learned that once you get past the icy exterior, AJ was a pretty nice guy. He also had Maya every time after the first encounter, which helped. I thought they were adorable though, however rough the waters got, they over came them. I also have to note that when I was younger, I used to tell people my real name was Amelia, and Amy was just a nickname, like Amelia!

4The book Amelia first tries to pitch to AJ was marketed as the memoir of an old man falling in love and getting married late in life. It is later revealed that the “memoir” was a work of fiction by a young female writer. Do you find it problematic that a book be falsely promoted in such a manner? YES! I did not like this. It made me feel like their whole relationship was based on a lie, which would have been really sad foreshadowing, had they broken up. I understand using a pen name or pseudonym, which I know is common especially among women, but to outright lie and hire an actor to play the part of the author? NOPE.

5. It turns out in the end that Ismay stole AJ’s copy of Tamerlane. Do you think his story would have gone the way it did if he’d been able to hold on to the valuable manuscript? This really surprised me, for some reason. I actually suspected Daniel at first (whose death ALSO REALLY SURPRISED ME.) I think it’s good that it got stolen when it did, and that it returned when it did. If he’d had Tamerlane, AJ wouldn’t have had Maya or Amelia or any of the things he found made his life worth living. (We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on.) I wasn’t a fan of Ismay, even in the beginning; she seemed so cold to me, and even after she had a chance to live her own life after Daniel and move on with Lambiase, she remained pretty much the same.

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So that’s that! Have you read The Storied Life of AJ Fikry? What did you think?

9 comments

  1. I just finished reading this over the weekend. It’s hard to dislike a book about books, book stores, book sellers, etc. (especially if one is a self-proclaimed bibliophile). Sadly, these are the only things that I liked in the book. I found the writing quite simple, the characters rather flat, and the plot fairy tale-ish. But I agree, it’s a book that is supposed to make one happy. 🙂

    1. It was definitely kind of unrealistic which gave it the fairy tale feel but I think that was why I liked it! I’m glad it made you happy if nothing else though! 🙂

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