Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Algonquin Books, 2014).

If you enjoy books, then you have to read this book. What Gabrielle Nevin did here is so perfectly crafted and lovable that it would be churlish to complain about her strategy. She probably sat down to create Island Books, on a small Massachusetts tourist island, and deliberately crafted the place to appeal to bookstore lovers so much that they want it in their own community. I was all set to drive to Massachusetts and figure out the ferry schedule before remembering that it isn't real. I'll have to "settle" for someplace wonderful in the real world instead.

A.J. Fikry is a young and recent widower, and when we meet him, he's still mourning the loss of his wife Nicole, who had handled all the store's events and activities. He has a meet cute with a new publisher's rep, and, over the course of a few years, softens and actually reads the book that she first recommended when they met, a memoir written by a widower in his late eighties. By that time, Fikry's life has run around some bizarre curves already: he's suffered the theft of a very valuable antique, on which he had hoped to retire, and he's found a one year-old abandoned in his store with a note to look after her.

Well, this isn't a very deep book, and it's not challenging, and its mysteries are not going to confound anybody looking for very intricate puzzles. In point of fact, if anything here surprises anybody, then they probably don't really love books as much as they think that they do. But it is so well-written and so vivid that the author can get away with being predictable and a little cozy. It's a love letter to bookstores, and, with all due deference to the fact that I do sort of like it when people click the Amazon link in the image, buy something, and give me a tiny commission or discount, it really should be purchased in a real, live bookstore. You should visit one today - TODAY! - and take this home with you with my smiling recommendation.

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