Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin Books, 2014
273 pages
source: ebook borrowed from library

Summary (from goodreads):
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

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.

Quick thoughts:

I laughed. I cried. In the end, this book was a little too sweet, somewhat predictable, and wholly improbable.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  just didn't live up to my expectations. BUT it was still a good enough book, especially the beginning, so go ahead and give it a try.

Everyone else loved it!

A few favorite quotes:
"I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn't be—basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful—nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups à la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and—I imagine this goes without saying—vampires." 
“Despite the fact that he loves books and owns a bookstore, A.J. does not particularly care for writers. He finds them to be unkempt, narcissistic, silly, and generally unpleasant people. He tries to avoid the ones who've written books he loves for fear that they will ruin their books for him.” 
“They had only ever discussed books, but what, in this life, is more personal than books?" 
“We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works.” 
“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?” 
“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."
My rating:

36 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed the audio version of this one -- sweet story.

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    1. Diane - Wish I'd gone the audio route.

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  2. This was pretty much how I felt about this book--liked it, but didn't love it--a good book, not a great one. Maybe it was a case of just not living up to all the hype. That being said, there were a lot of quotes that I really liked!

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    1. Bookmammalmusings - There were so many excellent quotes... they were my favorite part of the book.

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  3. I would totally agree with your "quick thoughts."

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    1. Jill - Couldn't muster a full review...

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  4. That's kind of how I felt. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it but didn't find that it lived up to my expectations. It wasn't a 5 Star for me either but it was a nice read.

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    1. Katherine - Yes, you're right. It was a nice read. I think all the hype had me expecting more.

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  5. My sister loved this book so I guess the ending didn't bother her.

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    1. Kathy - My sister did, too, and I think their reactions are definitely more typical.

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  6. Yeah it was a little predictable but very heart-warming and I loved all the short stories that were discussed and the reference to all the books. The audio was a wonderful was to experience it.

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    1. Sandy - I'm really sorry I didn't listen to this one... think it might have been a better experience that way.

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  7. I hesitate to read something so hyped because I'm afraid it won't live up to it for me, anyway, but I do still want to read this!

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    1. Rita - It's a good book and I think you might enjoy it. There are so many wonderful quotes (I had a hard time not including more!) that made it all worthwhile.

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  8. I can see how it would fall in the "too sweet" category for some. I had a similar experience with The House at the End of Hope Street, but I think Fikry landed in my life at a better time. Fun bookish references! That might be my fave part.

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    1. Andi - I think I was still suffering from a We Are Not Ourselves hangover. That book really did me in...

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  9. I think I would enjoy it simply for all those wonderful bookish quotes.

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    1. Cat - All of these great quotes were definitely the best part of the book for me!

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  10. Your first line puts it correctly - sweet, predictable and improbable but an enjoyable read nevertheless. I don't think I've ever posted a review for this one. By the time, I was ready to write, I had forgotten a lot about the book. It doesn't seem to have much staying power though, at least for me.

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    1. Athira - That's it.... a nice read, but without much staying power.

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  11. I loved this book, although I do agree with you that it was somewhat improbable. Good for you for going against the grain on this one! I feel like it's hard to do that with books that everyone else loves. Loved your quote list - I did a whole post of Fikry quotes, but missed the one about his opinion of writers...I love that one!

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    1. Sarah - The quotes were great. The writer one made me laugh out loud!

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  12. Nice to hear your thoughts on this. I tend to agree with you.

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    1. Pat - Yeah, it was an enjoyable book and I'm glad to have read it.

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  13. Sounds like a fun, light read for a book lover. I enjoyed a couple of the quotes you included. Especially, "you know everything you need to know about a person from their answer to the question: what is your favorite book?" Hmmm, I need to think about that one. And what would my answer be? Good topic for a discussion!

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    1. Sunday - This is really a delightful book... with very little substance. Timing is everything here, I think.

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  14. The book is sitting right next to me. I checked it out from the university library TWICE and it still sits unread. A few have raved about it but it's not all that appealing to me at the moment. I keep it, just in case I change my mind. I can renew one more time.

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    1. Ti - I checked this one out a couple of times, too. Glad I read it, but beware of unrealistic expectations.

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  15. I think of this one as "the right book at the right time." It was overly sweet and highly predictable but it just worked for me and was just what I needed. I can absolutely see where you're coming from. Sorry it was a zinger throughout but I'm glad it had it's moments for you!

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    1. Trish - I think you're right about needing to read this at the right time. I was still a little too raw from the fabulous We Are Not Ourselves to be able to fully appreciate this one.

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  16. Oh gosh, I've been on the fence about this and you haven't helped :) -- I might just wait a while and read it after I've kind of forgotten the hype.

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    1. Beth F - Oh, sorry. I was still pretty gutted from We Are Not Ourselves (such an amazing book!) when I read this and wasn't expecting to cry over a story as improbably as Fikry's.

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  17. Sorry to hear it didn't live up to your expectations, but it still sounds like a fun book for us booklovers to read. I'm definitely reading it this fall!

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    1. JaneGS - Yes, it's definitely a fun read and there are so many quotable sentiments. I'll be curious to hear what you think!

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  18. I didn't find the end overly predictable but it was a good book that was lacking a spark. Still loved it.

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    1. Stacy - I think reading it immediately on the heels of We Are Not Ourselves influenced my opinion...

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