Life has been a bit bananas of late and even reading has fallen by the wayside a bit. Perhaps that’s why I had to write about this one – I’m jumping straight in there and saying I loved The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. If warm fuzzy socks and a mug of hot chocolate could assume book form it would be this. It’s sweet and kind and uplifting and heartwarming, and it is such a homage to books and bookstores and the joys of reading that I can’t imagine any reader not liking it…. Other than perhaps bookclubs and booksellers who feel they have been shamelessly pandered to by the writer, which they kinda have, but I forgive her!
It’s also one of the most quotable books I’ve read in years:
“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”
“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.”
“The words you can’t find, you borrow. We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone.”
The eponymous A.J. Fikry is quite the curmudgeon when we first meet him – but he’s had a rough time of it recently. The owner of Island Books, where “No Man is an Island, Every Book is a World”, he is recently widowed and drinking himself to an early grave. His beloved bookstore is barely making ends meet and his prize possession – a rare edition of Poe – has been stolen. Even his books aren’t bringing him any joy – and to make things worse the rep from his favourite publishing house has died and he has to contend with the quirky new rep coming into his store and trying to get him to read outside his comfort zone. For reasons that become clear later, someone abandons a precocious toddler in his store. And everything changes…