Book Reviews

The Stories Life of AJ Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin

Precarious stacks of Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) and galleys line the hallway, and Amelia feels the unusual flash of despair. The tote bag that is embossing her shoulder has several additions for A.J’s piles and a catalogue filled with other books for her to pitch. She never lies about the books on her list. She never says she loves a book if she doesn’t. She can usually find something positive to say about a book or, failing that, the cover or, failing that, the author or, failing that the author’s website. And that’s why they pay me the big bucks, Amelia occasionally jokes to herself. She makes $37,000 per year, plus the possibility of bonuses, though no one who does her job has made a bonus for a very long time. (Page 10)

This is a book or people who love books and love reading. Set in a bookshop on Alice Island, Island Books is run by A.J. Fikry; a grumpy, lonely, nearing middle aged man. One day he goes down to close the shop up for the evening and finds a two year old girl called Maya sat on the floor of the children’s section with a note attached to a stuffed toy asking him to look after her. 

It is such a beautifully written book that Zevin had produced here. Not only is it funny in places but it speaks to people of all ages, and it has this universal message about love and happiness. All of the characters take a long time to come around to the idea of happiness above all else but when they decide that this is the best path to take the world seems to become a brighter place. But of course there are sad twists as always in novels, twists that aren’t expected and caused some tears on my part. However this novel has heart. I think it speaks to me as a reader because it’s a focus on relationships and different kinds of them. There’s not only paternal relationships between father and daughter, but the showing of a lack of maternal role model, a one sided relationship where the love is unequal, love in later life, and that “We are what we love. We are that we love.”

The characters are simply a joy to get to know as well. We get a glimpse into all of the characters at some point or another, including not only A.J the bookshop owner and Amelia the sales rep, but the chief of police Lambaise and A.J’s sister in law Ismay, her husband Daniel etc. All of these characters add to this story, either in humour or tension and I personally love the “Chief’s Choice Book Club” development throughout and the relationship this leads to. 

In addition to this each chapter offers up a reading suggestion and a little review from A.J himself, intended for his daughter to read. It offers a nice selection of short stories, novels and poems, which I’m sure would be good fun to read through at some point, because surely Zevin wouldn’t include books she didn’t enjoy herself?

Overall I think this is the perfect book for a sunny afternoon or a cosy morning. It’s fun, light and easy to read, funny throughout with touches of sadness. Definitely a quick read you’ll wish you hadn’t sped through. 

Total pages – 260

Total read time – 3 hours

Rating /10 – 7

Recommend – Yes

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