Also known as The storied life of A.J. Fikry in the US.
I want to start this review by favouring something that the main character said in this book – that it’s much harder to talk about things that we love than things that we don’t like, which is absolutely true. I’m almost kind of scared to review this book, because I’m afraid that I won’t do it justice, because it is such a wonderful, joyous read and reading it was such an exuberant experience.
A.J. Fikry follows the main character, A.J, a recent widower, borderline alcoholic and independent bookstore owner, as he navigates his way through his lacklustre, scrooge style life. That is, until a young, suicidal mother leaves her 2 year old on his bookshop floor, and life takes a different turn that, even A.J, someone well versed in stories, could not forsee.
I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book. This is definitely a book for book lovers and avid readers, as A.J, being a bookseller, is immersed in the centre of the book industry, which features very heavily in the story. The funniest parts of the book, the bits that made me laugh out loud, were the references to how people relate to each other via finding out what the people they are interacting with enjoy reading. Case in point, in reference to one character’s, Amelia, first date:
Still, Amelia had not allowed herself to be certain until dessert, when she’d asked him about the book that had had the greatest influence on his life, and he’d replied Principles of Accounting, Part II. Gently she tells him no, she would rather not go out again.
Still, Gabrielle Zevin manages to pull all of this off without being pretentious, and manages to write a gentle and humane story that is not really about what books can do for people, but ultimately is about how important people and love are to the human experience. Every relationship in this book – A.J and his adopted daughter Maya, his friendship with sweet police officer Lambaise, his sister in law Ismay, and many others, is so lovely to read about, and ultimately brought me to tears towards the end of the novel. Furthermore, the ending really is an ending, in the sense it really feels like the story has come full circle in the most funny but satisfying way.
Also, I am so happy about the racial diversity in this book. It’s always wonderful to see a more accurate reflection of the population.
I LOVE this book. It has seared itself onto my memory and has become one of my all time favourites. Go out and read it read it read it.
I leave you with some of my favourite quotes:
“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.”
“We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
“You tell a kid he doesn’t like to read, and he’ll believe you.”
In the end, we are collected works.”
“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.”