May 30, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Made Me a Believer in Humanity Again

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.

So I am sure you have read a bunch of rave reviews of this book already.  You're probably thinking, "I wonder if it is as good as they say?"  The answer is a resounding YES, YES, ABSOLUTELY YES!

Now I don't want to get your expectations so high that you won't enjoy the book, but I would be remiss not to tell you I devoured this book.   And I am not a devouring a book kind of girl.  I take my time with books, even good ones.  But even as I tried to savor this one, I inevitably tore through the pages.  

A.J. Fikry is so relatable.  He is devastated and pretty curmudgeony after the unexpected death of his wife.  He is stuck living alone above the bookstore that the two of them bought in her small hometown on an island in the Northeast U.S.  He drinks pretty steadily, doesn't really socialize outside of his late wife's sister and her husband, and even that is pushing it.  All he has to keep him going is his prized possession - an original copy of Poe's Tamerlane - which is his nest egg.  When it gets stolen, he is completely lost.  But he soon finds out that it may have just been the best thing that ever happened to him.  The next night after the theft, thinking he has nothing else to lose, he leaves the door unlocked while on his run.  When he returns, someone has left him a present.  A small toddler.

This book touched me so deeply.  I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I felt absolutely insane the whole time I was reading it my mood changed so much.  But it was in a good way!  Gabrielle Zevin creates this portrait of a bookseller who is obstinate and snobby and depressed and builds this life around him that is utterly enjoyable to read about.  That, my fellow readers, is talent.  It's like I was taken in and intoxicated by Zevin's magic spell and I was completely overjoyed to be there.

I love the banter between Amelia and A.J.  That conversation they have in the Moby-Dick themed restaurant is SO a conversation I would have.  I love the conversation between Ismay and Lambiase where they discuss book covers v. the insides and compare it to people's outsides and insides.  I love how precocious a little girl Maya is, I mean, how utterly just delightful is she?  

This book did not affect only me in this way.  Michele of A Reader's Respite, a few others, and I, are holding a Short Story Society on Facebook in order to read the short stories that A.J. reads and reviews in this book.  Some are classics, some are modern, all are going to be read. We start in the next week or so.  No pressure, just fun.   If you want to join us, let me know!   But whatever you do, get this book in your hands.  

"People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?" -pg. 87

(On having an adoption party):
"So it's basically like a book party."
"Yeah, sure." Lambiase has never been to a book party.
"I hate book parties," A.J. says.
"But you run the bookstore," Lambiase says.
"It's a problem," A.J. admits.  - pg. 75

"It is the secret fear that we are unlovable that isolate us, but it is only because we are isolated that we think we are unlovable." -pg. 157

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