If you have a free week-end, zip over to your library and check out a copy of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. The book was recommended to me by a friend who loves books like I do. I zipped through the 272 pages of the hardcover copy in two evenings. When I have a book that I am thoroughly besotted by, I can read faster than when I have to plod through one that is of little interest.
A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore on a fictional island called Alice that is off the eastern coast of the USA. An automobile accident claims the life of his beloved wife. As the story begins, A.J. is despondent and grumpy. He's also a bit of a nerd but maintains his bookstore for the islanders and summer tourists and because he loves books more than anything in his dreary life.
Enter Amelia, a publishing company's sales rep who is unusual in her own way. She and A.J. clash at first but come to develop an interesting relationship. Someone leaves a life-changer in A.J.'s bookstore--a baby girl who captures the broken heart of this unusual man. By the time, he has cared for Maya through the week-end, A.J. cannot stand the thought of sending her into foster care. He adopts her and raises her as his own.
We are treated to seeing him become a loving, if unusual, father while developing a friendship with the local police chief and maintaining ties with his dead wife's sister and her author husband. A.J. uses the wisdom he finds in books to live his life and to raise the little girl. I quickly developed a liking for this curmudgeonly protagonist and all the other quirky people in the story.
Even though the book is not lengthy, we move through years of A.J's life with Maya and his relationship with Amelia. A bit of mystery is introduced at the beginning of the book which is not solved for a very long time. And throughout the story, books take the spotlight over and over.
Some short quotes by reviewers:
“This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love--love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child
“Marvelously optimistic about the future of books and bookstores and the people who love both.” —The Washington Post
“You won’t want it to end.” —Family Circle
It's a perfect book for Book Clubs to read. you'll laugh, you'll nod your head in agreement, and you'll shed a few tears as well. Yes, it's a perfect week-end companion.