download (1)Reviewed by Jax Kepple

Despite the twee cover, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a heart-wrenching story. In fact, the cover was the worse thing about this book, as it led the reader to believe the story was full of fluff when in reality, author Gabrielle Zevin was able to create this beautiful world with great, lively characters, and this marvelous bookshop all while dealing with abandonment, alcoholism, love, death, business, and most of all, family.

Island Books, the only bookstore on the fictional Alice Island off of Cape Cod, is owned by A.J. Fikry who mainly stocks literary fiction and turns his nose up at “postmodernism, post-apocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators or magic realism,” along with a litany of other stipulations. Amelia Loman is a book agent for a small press and is taken aback by Fikry’s limited propensities but persists in pushing a book that speaks to her about a man who married at age eighty-five.

Fikry,whose wife had died two years earlier, feels as though he has nothing to lose and goes on a bender. He wakes up to realize that he has been robbed of a very valuable book. Feeling as though he literally has nothing else to lose, he goes out for a run and leaves the door to the bookstore open. He comes back to find an abandoned baby and his life changes forever. The rest of the story follows Fikry’s life as it involves the baby – now his daughter – Maya, Amelia, his former sister-in-law Ismay and his friend the Police Chief Lambiase all on this beautiful New England island.

Zevin has a lot of plot packed into a small amount of pages, and is able to bring some surprising twists easily and effortlessly, especially the resolution to the stolen book story line. The beginning of each section is a small blurb about some of A.J.’s favorite books, and they are flawlessly written in A.J.s voice. In the end, the reason for A.J. to have written these blurbs becomes clear and it is excruciating, as Zevin was able to make a character that the reader falls in love with.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.