A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore, which he and his late wife Nic started on a vacationers’ island in New England. The story begins with A.J. the widower wallowing in his grief each night with frozen dinners and red wine. As he works through his grief and begins to let people into his life, he finds meaning.
Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: contemporary fiction
Read Great Things 2022 Categories: A happy or hopeful book; A book about community; Blast from the past: A book about family (2021), An epistolary book or a book that contains epistolary parts (2019), A book being made into a movie this year (2018)
Why did you choose to read this book?
My book club chose this as an upbeat book. We had been reading a lot of difficult or serious books–which I haven’t finished or quit reading–so this was a welcome change. This one was very light and breezy, without being simplistic.
It covers a lot of ground: love, loss and infidelity; books and reading; comedy, tragedy and hope.
What did you like about it?
I identified somewhat with the main character at the beginning of the novel and, at the end, he reminded me of my father. Though several important characters feature throughout this short book, each is fleshed out enough that they feel relatable. I laughed a lot and cried too.
Each chapter begins with A.J.’s reflective summary of a book that relates to the chapter. For example, reviews of Lamb to the Slaughter, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and The Luck of Roaring Camp introduce the first three chapters.
I know this sounds formulaic and trite, but it’s difficult to talk about the book without giving away key plot points, of which there are several. My book club partner thought the author tried to do too much with the book, but I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story.
My two favorite novels are mentioned in the book: Infinite Jest and A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Was there anything noteworthy about the book?
It was American Booksellers Association’s #1 pick on The April 2014 Indie Next Great Reads list.
A film version of the book, starring Christina Hendricks, Lucy Hale and David Arquette, is in production.
With what feeling did the book leave you?
I cried near the end, but it’s not a sad book. I felt a sense of closure.
To whom would you recommend this book?
People who like books about books, reading and writing will like this. Fans of serious literature will enjoy this book, but it is not serious literature. People experiencing grief may find hope in this book.
With what would you pair this book?
I’d pair this book with a vacation: whether it’s a beach or the mountains, going somewhere without a lot of bustle.
Want to read more books by Gabrielle Zevin, books about books, or books about grief with catharsis? Check out our Dogwood Digital Collection (available for download via the Libby app, just like your public library!) or browse our collections in-person or search online.
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