Random Article

Don't Miss

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Storied Life
Storied Life
Storied Life


Highlights: A.J. develops friendships with some unlikely people.
Synopsis: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry follows A.J. as he tries to get his life and bookstore back in order, but life is full of surprises and many complications!



Fun Factor

Reading Recommendation

Total Score
9/ 14

User Rating
1 total rating



A quirky bookstore setting and clever references to other well-known works of literature.


Too little conflict and a slow plot.

Posted April 28, 2014 by

Full Article

Most book lovers harbor a secret desire to own a bookstore. We’ve all imagined how we’d arrange each section just so, and we’ve pictured the joy that sharing our love for books with others would bring. That’s why the novel The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin will appeal to many bibliophiles. Set in Island Books on remote Alice Island, The Storied Life has garnered a great deal of interest from readers and booksellers everywhere. The question is, does it live up to all that hype?


A.J. Fikry is the sole owner of Island Books. After his wife’s death in a tragic car accident, A.J. has become increasingly reclusive and grumpy. So when the new sales rep for Knightley Press, Amelia Loman, shows up with the latest catalogue, A.J. isn’t exactly welcoming. Still, Amelia sees potential in Island Books if only the curmudgeonly owner will get off his duff and do something before his store fails.

Although A.J. does not like change, he gets it in spades! One night in the wee hours of the morning, A.J. is stunned to find a young child named Maya sitting in the children’s section of his bookstore. Maya’s mother washes ashore a few days later, a suicide. A.J., who has never had children and isn’t exactly endearing to those who know him best, shocks the community by deciding to keep Maya and raise her as his own.

Following Maya’s arrival, the locals begin to visit the bookstore more frequently. At first, they come to marvel at the child, but while they are there, many buy books. Before long, they become repeat customers. For the first time in history, Island Books is beginning to thrive, and A.J. has friends, including Police Chief Lambiase and sales rep Amelia, with whom A.J. is developing a more personal relationship. Things are going well at the bookstore…but of course all this happiness cannot last forever.


The book has several positive attributes. Each chapter is titled after a famous piece of literature. At the start of the chapter is an excerpt from the title after which it is named. The chapter titles reflect that section’s content. For example, the chapter where A.J. discovers Maya is titled “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” a famous short story by Bret Harte. In Harte’s work, the citizens of Roaring Camp adopt a baby they name “Luck” after the child’s mother dies. The citizens begin to improve their town for Luck’s sake, and as a result, Roaring Camp prospers, much the way Island Books does after Maya’s arrival. Avid readers will enjoy figuring out the connection between the chapter titles and their content. Chapter titles include “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” just to name a few.

In other parts of the book, Zevin drops even more literary treats for readers to discover. At one point, A.J. describes his former sister-in-law in an unforgettable way:

Ismay has stylishly cut, spiky red hair, pale skin and eyes, long spindly limbs. All her features are a little too large, her gestures too animated. Pregnant, she is like a very pretty Gollum.

 Lord of the Rings fans will know the reference immediately. Many such references are peppered throughout the book.

While the bookstore setting and the multitude of literary references are engaging, readers looking for a fast-paced, plot-driven tale may find the book wanting. The idea that a child welfare worker would allow a man whose background is completely unknown to keep the child before doing a full check on him seems a little far-fetched. Plus, the book just does not have enough conflict, which drives plot, to keep it moving. At times, the plot becomes sluggish, which may result in readers putting the book down before the ending.

With summer just around the corner, those looking for something light-hearted for the beach may want to consider The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly has its supporters, and because of Zevin’s clever use of literary teasers from a multitude of works, many readers will enjoy it for the thrill it gives them when they make the connection to other books they’ve read.

A New York Times Bestseller, a #1 Indie Next Pick, and a #1 LibraryReads Selection

“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.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books, has recently endured some tough years: his wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession-a rare edition of Poe poems-has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, instead of offering solace, are yet another reminder of a world that is changing too rapidly. Until a most unexpected occurrence gives him the chance to make his life over and see things anew. 

Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books-an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

“Readers who delighted in Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Jessica Brockmole’s Letters from Skye will be equally captivated by this adult novel by a popular YA author about a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Wade into summer reading with this sweet yet soulful tale of love, loss, the power of friendship-and books. Like sunshine on a breezy spring day, you won’t want it to end.” —Family Circle

“Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books . . . Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, wonderful critiques of classic titles, and very funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere.” —Booklist

“Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty.” —Publishers Weekly

“A wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time.” —Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

List Price: $24.95 USD
New From: $14.83 USD In Stock
Used from: $11.76 USD In Stock

Mollie Smith Waters

Mollie Smith Waters teaches American literature, theater, and speech at a small community college in rural Alabama. Her hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and walking.


Be the first to comment!

Tell us what you think