Summary and book reviews of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

A Novel

By Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2014,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: 3 Mar 2015,
    288 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

We are not quite novels.

We are not quite short stories.

In the end, we are collected works.

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 Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry 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, he 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, though large in weight—an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. 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., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, 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.

Excerpt
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Two Fridays before Christmas, two minutes before close, A.J. makes the rounds of kicking out and ringing up the last customers. A man in a puffy coat is hemming and hawing over the latest Alex Cross. "Twenty-six dollars seems like a lot. You know I can get it cheaper online, right?" A.J. says that he does know as he shows the man the door. "You should really lower your prices if you want to be competitive," the man says.

"Lower my prices? Lower. My. Prices. I hadn't considered that before," A.J. says mildly.

"Are you being cheeky, young man?"

"No, I'm thankful. And at the next Island Books shareholders' meeting, I'll definitely raise this innovative suggestion of yours. I know we want to remain competitive. Between you and me, for a time in the early oughties, we'd given up on competition. I thought it was a mistake, but my board decided that competition was best left to Olympic athletes, kids in spelling ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. At the beginning of the story, Amelia says she is considering quitting online dating. How would you compare the act of buying books online to the act of dating online? Is it relevant to the story that Amelia meets her eventual husband in a very analog location, a bookstore?

  2. Consider the setting. Why do you think the author chooses to set the book on an island? How does the island setting reflect A.J.'s character?

  3. Perhaps oddly, vampires are a recurring motif in the story: for example, when A.J.'s wife throws the vampire prom and when A.J. watches True Blood to court Amelia. What do you make of the references to vampires?

  4. Lambiase moves from an occasional or nonreader, to a reader, to a bookseller. How ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Character Development
I'm not sure how this book would do as a movie. The literary references are part of what gives it its "panache." - LeahLovesBooks

Do you think The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was written - as an homage to her father - by Maya? Or, if not, who might have written it?
Do you think The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was written - as an homage to her father - by Maya? Or, if not, who might have written it? - donnac

Have you read and enjoyed any of the books AJ discusses in the letters to Maya that introduce each new chapter?
There are some good ones there. You should enjoy them. - donnac

How do you think becoming a reader changes Lambiase?
Lambiase is a man open to growth. - LeahLovesBooks

How do you think Daniel Parrish might have changed if he had lived? Do you think some people never change?
Daniel is an archetype. He goes through life with a whistle and a cynical word or two and is smugly sure that he is an upstanding person. Being self absorbed, he is ambivalent to any other person's situation. Being charming is a necessary ... - bettek

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

Zevin has written a near-perfect novel. Punctuated by explicit references to classic short stories, implicit literary references, self-deprecating swipes at literary snobs (Is a twist less satisfying if you know it’s coming? Is a twist that you can’t predict symptomatic of bad construction?) and book club discussions, with humor and flawless characterization, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry fills all the bills in straightforward, no-frills prose.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review Members Only (1247 words).

Media Reviews
Library Journal's Books for Dudes blog

I don't appreciate the position I'm in with The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I resent the skill and verve that Ms. Z. shows in this quirky, punchy novel. I don't like that it's so readable, so appealing. I disdain its damnable charm, its succinctness, its crisp, clear tone! AAAUGH! ... VERDICT: This lightning fast read is super-enjoyable; hide it inside a Popular Mechanics.

Publishers Weekly

Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious.

Kirkus

Sometimes funny, sometimes true to life and always entertaining... A likable literary love story about selling books and finding love.

Author Blurb Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child
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.

Author Blurb Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us what saves us all from a life of loneliness and isolation: our sense of empathy; our ability to love and be loved; our willingness to care and be cared for. Gabrielle Zevin has written a wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time.

Author Blurb Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a breezy, big-hearted treat, especially if you've ever wondered about the inner workings of America's national treasures - neighborhood bookstores.

Reader Reviews
Linda Bach

Fascinating
I read this book in two sessions and only was able to put it down to get some sleep. I found the characters fascinating and became very vested in their welfare; I cared what happened to them as if they were real.

Carmen Kirschling

Readers will rejoice
A lovely little story that reconfirms why we read, and why we love when others read, too!

Roe P

IF YOU LOVE BOOKS.....
I totally loved this book.. It takes place in a small bookstore in an out of the way town. It is a little bit of everything, love story, family saga. The characters come alive and the story is such a sweet story. I recommend this book to every ...   Read More

Lola Michaels

Sweet Read!
This book was, hands down, a gem. From page one Zevin had me involved in a whirlwind of full bodied characters and I couldn't put the book down until I finished. There were nice surprises along the way and I learned to look out of the small clues ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

The Storied Death of the Independent Bookstore

We heard it when Borders Books began to appear. The Independent Bookstore is going to die. And then when Barnes and Noble Bookstores began popping up in many cities and suburbs. And when Amazon hit the scene. And then ebooks. The Independent Bookstore is all but dead. But is this true?

Ann Patchett and Karen HayesHeadline, November 28, 2012, The Atlantic: The Bookstore Strikes Back. This story, by novelist Ann Patchett is about what this author is doing to fill a void in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. After the last of that city's booksellers went out of business in 2011, Patchett was devastated. But she turned that devastation into resolve when she decided to partner with two veterans in the book business, Karen Hayes, a former sales rep for Random ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, try these:

  • A Man Called Ove jacket

    A Man Called Ove

    by Fredrik Backman

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

  • The Bad Book Affair jacket

    The Bad Book Affair

    by Ian Sansom

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Israel Armstrong - the hapless librarian who solves crimes and domestic problems whilst driving a mobile library around the north coast of Ireland - suspects a teenage girl's disappearance has something to do with his lending her American Pastoral from the library's special "Unshelved" category. Now he has to find the lost teen before he's run out...

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.