Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin)

Genre: General Fiction

Rating: ★★★★★


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.


Now this is one of the best reads I’ve read this year. This book was the perfect mixture of literary love, humour, wit, unexpected turn of life events and how books can have a positive impact in your life.

Sure the story starts with AJ Fikry, a grumpy, sarcastic widowed bookseller, determined to end his life after the death of his beloved wife. But when that mysterious package arrives (I was shocked to find out what it was!) things started turning around for him.

What I loved of the book was the fact that a love of reading was made the centre of the story. How reading literally saves us from ignorance, from something that could destroy us. The characters are so lovable in this book, although they don’t really impacted much of the story except to support AJ in his troubled life.

The book had a lot of reading references in which I almost used up all of my sticky tabs to take note of. Here are some of my favourite I’d like to share with you:

“I’m telling you. Bookstores attract the right kind of folk. And I like talking about books with people who like talking about books. I like paper. I like how it feels, and I like the feel of a book in my back pocket. I like how a new book smells, too.”

“Now you’re making fun of me”
“Bah! Books are for nerds” AJ says
“Nerds like us”

“Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time”

I resonated well with the lover of AJ as well, Amelia. I found her struggle to find a compatible partner, who is sensible and shares her love of books to be both personal and real. How many times have I felt lost at words in my previous relationships because we had no common interests? How I felt distraught at not being able to find someone who understands my love of books?

And now that I’ve found a special person who reads too, I know he’s not easy to come by.

“All I can say is…we’ll figure it out, I swear. When I read a book, I want you to be reading it at the same time. I want to know what would Amelia think of it. I want you to be mine. I can promise you books and conversation and all of my heart, Amy”

I won’t tell you much of the story line, it isn’t much by adventurous standards. It is after all the story of a small isolated bookstore on Alice Island, USA. But I love chilled out books like these, their cliche-ness, their romantic concepts that books can bring people together and create something beautiful.

I truly enjoyed this in a unique manner unlike previous reads. A high recommendation from me, and I hope you’ll love as much as I have 🙂  


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