Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction




When we first walk into Island Books with Amelia there is something foreboding in the air. A living ghost is shadowing everything with his grief and if he doesn’t do something about it soon, A.J. Fikry, could lose his bookshop sooner rather than later.

Amelia walks into A.J. Fikry’s life as a sales rep for Knightley Press and he is far from an easy sell.

{I thought I was picky about what I read but than A. J. Fikry taught me what being truly picky is and I no longer classify myself as a picky snob. He’s brash and condescending to Amelia and I found myself not caring for A. J. very much in the beginning.}

After throwing his dinner against the wall and getting truly smashed off a bottle of wine, A.J. wakes up and finds that his precious copy of Tamerlane by Edgar Allan Poe is missing or heaven forbid has been stolen. He rushes to the police but soon finds that his precious book may be lost forever along with the money it would have brought in so that he could just give up on the bookshop and retire.

Finding it increasing, “difficult to be here all the time” (pg. 35), A.J. is finding the death of his wife, Nic, to be just to much for him to accept as his new reality and who can blame him for acting the way he does towards others and his own life.

{I know if Jeremy, my husband, died I wouldn’t even want to interact with people so at least A.J. is putting up some kind of effort even though it is only a half hearted attempt.}

That is until a package of the small human variety is left in his bookshop just for him.

Maya, a precious two-year-old, is left in A.J.’s book shop with a note that says;

To the Owner of This Bookstore:

This is Maya. She is twenty-five months old. She is

VERY SMART, exceptionally verbal for her age, and a

sweet, good girl. I want her to grow up to be a reader. I

want her to grow up in a place with books and among

people who care about those kinds of things. I love her

very much, but I can no longer take care of her. The father

cannot be in her life, and I do not have a family that can help, I am desperate.

Yours,

Maya’s Mother

(pg. 49)


Why did Maya’s mom choose this place? Why Alice Island? To leave her baby? And to kill herself?

Marian Wallace’s body washes up on shore of the Alice Island Sound and it didn’t take long to connect the dots to realize that Marian was Maya’s mother.

Soon another inner struggle presents itself to A.J. , should he or should he not take on Maya as his daughter? After deciding to become Maya’s guardian A.J. needs a lot of help so Ismay, A.J.’s sister-in-law, steps up along with other woman in the community to help A.J. in the raising of baby Maya. Even though parenthood scares the bejesus out of A. J. his love for Maya grows in leaps and bounds everyday.

{I love how the author ties in titles of numerous books throughout the text, these references really show how a bookshop works, that a live person can ask you a question and then miraculously lead you to a book that you buy and then fall in love with, that is the power of a true bookshop one that Amazon cannot buy. }

Amelia is still in our story, she comes and goes with each of the publishing seasons and presents and orders books for A. J. but that is all it is until A. J. finds his heart thawing and his thoughts straying to Amelia constantly. A lunch halts A.J.’s idea when he finds out that Amelia is engaged. Discouraged A.J. goes back into the same mundane relationship with Amelia, that of bookshop owner and sales rep. Coincidentally this thawing of the heart doesn’t just stop when Amelia reveals that she is to be married, no A. J.’s heart’s thawing is not because of Amelia it is Maya’s doing. Pretty soon Island Book’s is running book clubs and having events and as A. J. lets more people into his life he also lets different types of books in as well.

{Amelia is one of those girls though out of their twenties they still have a sweet outlook on life and they were eclectic vintage clothes, and some may see them as weird I see them as creative and whimsical individuals and this is why Amelia is my favorite character in this book.}

Amelia hurts her ankle and is unable to get to Alice Island for her and A. J. appointment to go over this seasons publishing list, so they go over the list on Skype, and A. J. and her talk some but even after the call ended A. J. cannot get Amelia out of his head. So he decides to act and him, Maya, Lambiase, who is the chief of police for the island and A. J. ‘s best friend, go to Providence to see Amelia. Love of course ensues and life works out for A.J., Maya, and Amelia for awhile. One of their friends however hasn’t been so lucky and after a fight with her husband Daniel about if he could be Maya’s biological father, Ismay and him get into a horrible accident and Daniel dies and Ismay is badly injured. After a hard recovery Ismay finds that the Island’s Chief of Police, Lambiase, has set his sights on winning her heart.

{I love that Lambiase and Ismay get together, ssshhh, don’t tell anyone.}

After a few dates Lambiase soon finds himself an overnight guest and is left in Ismay’s bedroom while she is making him breakfast the next morning. So of course he snoops!

{Don’t tsk at this part you know we have all snooped in a relationship before, so let’s be truthful about ourselves when it come to this because Lambiase’s actions were very human.}

He does come upon something of interest, a child’s book back, which is weird because Ismay has no children. Opening the bag reveals something everyone gave up on years ago, but ever the tender heart, Lambiase afraid to upset the balance in more that one person’s life puts the bag and its contents back where he found them.

{Unbelievable happiness is hard to come by and when you have it and something or someone bursts that bubble on you it is even harder to deal with because there was so much happiness.}

A.J. finds out that he’s sick, really sick, and their happiness bubble gets busted. He needs surgery but lacks funds so somehow an “old friend” that he thought he would never see again mysteriously finds its way back to him and even though it is marked it still brings a good price at auction so that A. J. can have his surgery and radiation.

When nothing seems to reduce the size of the tumor A.J. prepares himself and the ones he loves for his death. Particularly Maya whom he writes to.

{These letters are really short story recommendations that A. J. wants her to read so she understands the life lessons he slips into each letter which also correspond with the story. Each of these letters are found at the beginning of each chapter. Each chapter is also named after the short story that A. J. is writing about, there are: Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Luck of Roaring Camp by Bret Harte, What Feels Like the World by Richard Bausch, A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain, Girls in Their Summer Dresses by Irwin Shaw, A Conversation with My Father by Grace Paley, A Perfect Day for Bananafish by J. D. Salinger, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, Ironhead by Aimee Bender, When We Talk about When We Talk about Love by Raymond Carver , and The Bookseller by Roald Dahl. These are A.J.’s way of saying goodbye to Maya but that he is still there for her even after death.}

Towards the end A. J. gets it right when he says:


Maya, we are what we love. We are that we love.

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 there, I think these really do live on.

(pg. 251)


A. J. dies and I cry. The bookshop sits empty of life like it just lost its best friend and I cry.

My heart gladdens a bit when Ismay and Lambiase buy the bookstore.

{I start to really think about that happiness bubble burst I talked about earlier, about the hard things being truly harder on those that have true happiness, and then I think about A.J.’s life and I realize that he had an amazing life and no matter the hardships and sicknesses that faced him later in life he still knocked living out of the park.}

{This is a truly amazing book and if you love anything to do with books and reading this is a must read!}

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