Book Review: The Storied Life of AJ Fikry


“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, 'What is your favorite book?'”

After the last few weeks of reading, I really craved a light, easy, engaging book. I wanted something not too predictable, but with a story which would be familiar enough to feel like a bit of an old shoe.

Fortunately, I had The Storied Life of AJ Fikry waiting on the shelf for me.

The setting was standard, a bookstore on an island in a New England town.  The main character, AJ Firky, is a widowed owner of said bookstore. The small town has the typical cast of characters: the policeman, teacher, and philandering husband. Life happens in bursts of excitement and brings AJ along whether he's ready to go or not.

And mostly, he's not.

The narrative is simple and mostly predictable, but the writing is solid, and the story is ultimately well told.  Of course, I live in the bull's eye of the target market for a tale like this. AJ Fikry is, after all, a man who loves him some books!

In fact, each chapter of this narrative begins with AJ writing a review of his favorite stories. Each review is short, pithy, and most of them I haven't read. A sampling:

- Lamb to the Slaughter- The Diamond as Big as the Ritz- The Luck of Roaring Camp- What Feels Like the World

Anyone know these books?

Bonus points for adding to my reading list...but I digress.  Back to the story of the story...

I don't want to give the plot line away because each little reveal is fun to discover.  However, beyond the plot, the main character AJ tends to filter his life through lessons he's learned from his books. As a narrative device, it feels as if the author is winking at all of the readers, knowing that we'll all get the point.

One particular exchange I liked was when a writer in town was hitting on a children's book editor.

" I bet you're a good editor," he says"Based on what?""Well, you wouldn't let me think your book won when it was only a runner-up."Janine looks at her watch."Janine looks at her watch," Daniel says. "She is bored with the old writer."Janine smiles. "Strike the second sentence. Reader will know. Show, don't tell."

Ah ha! I see what you did there! (wink)

AJ's life is filtered through quotes and stories of what he's read. I found myself repeatedly relating to his thoughts. He loves his books because they give him a voice (or voices) from which to borrow bigger, broader thoughts.

“The words you can’t find, you borrow. We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone. My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart. We are not quite novels. The analogy he is looking for is almost there. We are not quite short stories. At this point, his life is seeming closest to that. In the end, we are collected works.”

I love that nugget.  I found myself repeatedly loving little morsels. How about this truth?

“... the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.”

Yes!!  Age does change the impact of what we read and, “sometimes books don't find us until the right time.

Don't you feel like some books find you? Isn't that the happiest of days?  Hmmmm.  Just thinking this thought makes me want to curl up in a hammock and take a nap.

Of course, books aren't life itself, they merely make life much more fun. AJ recognizes this too as he waxes philosophically,

“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 these, I think these really do live on”

More truth, simply stated. Nothing fancy, but this book was a delight to read.