The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
For anyone that loves books and bookstores, this novel is for you. A.J. Fikry is a middle-aged owner of Island Books, a book store on Alice Island off the coast of Massachusetts, where “No Man is an Island; Every Book is a World.” He is ill-tempered with customers and vendors because of depression caused by the loss of his wife two years earlier. He is somewhat of a literary snob and only stocks and sells books he likes (a narrow band of literary fiction preferably in short story form) – he disdains mass market bestsellers and the people that would want to read them. Needless to say, the store is not doing very well. And to top it off, someone steals his prized possession, a first edition of Edgar Alan Poe’s Tamerlane – with an estimated worth in the hundreds of thousands.
His life changes when he finds a baby left in the children’s section with a note from the anonymous mother saying she can no longer care for the child and that wants her child to grow up in a world of books. The baby immediately melts Fikry’s heart, and he shocks the agent from Child Protective Services, his customers, and himself when he decides to keep the baby. Clueless, Fikry researches every aspect of childcare on the internet to find out what and when to feed and how to change diapers.
Magically, his world shifts. Business picks up as customers use the excuse of buying books to come see the baby. The policeman investigating the stolen book and the missing mother forms a book club with other police officers. A love interest ensues between Fikry and a publisher sales rep.
The writing style is fast-paced, witty, and mostly lighthearted, with a few bouts of death and tragedy thrown in the mix. There is a particularly humorous scene when an author gets drunk at his book signing. The novel has mystery. Who stole the prized 1st edition? What were the circumstances that led to a mother leaving a child there? But, foremost, it is a story about the redeeming power of love. Love between parent and child, romantic love, and the love of books and bookstores, and the strong community bond formed around them.
Watch Bryan on WZZM Channel 13 Take Five morning show at 9:00am Monday, February 2 as he discusses The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Come be a part of our community bound by books at the monthly Book Club at 6:00 pm Monday, February 2, at the Book Nook & Java Shop/Best Cellars Wine Bar in downtown Montague.