book reviews

Book Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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Rating: 6.5/10

This book is about the lonely bookstore owner of Island Books on Alice Island, A. J. Fikry. His life is not all that he expected it to be. His sells aren’t as good as they should be, he’s been through recent personal tragedy and a very valuable and rare book is stolen from under him. He feels like he doesn’t have much to look forward to until a special gift is left for him at the bookstore. This gift ends up changing his life in a way he could hardly fathom.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a nice light-hearted and quick read which I desperately needed after the heavy reading I did during the course of my school semester. The story was chalk full of cute and heartwarming moments. I’m not ashamed to admit that I got a little teary eyed during a few key moments in the first half.

The set up was simple but complex. The connections the main characters establish with books and people throughout the narrative are what really made this story for me. I found most of the characters enchanting in their own way. The community of Alice Island was diverse and I found that they really filled out the world the book established. The entire novel comes off as a love letter to books and the strength of human relationships based around them.

By the same token, the book was a bit too light-hearted for me. Though I appreciated its simplicity, I couldn’t help but want more drama and complexity. In the first few chapters, I felt that certain conflicts were wrapped up way too neatly. It had a very fairy tale vibe which I wouldn’t have minded if there were significant stakes set up before the resolutions. Even the more complex aspects of the story dealing with how relationships fall apart don’t seem like there is really anything at stake. For example, when a major death occurs halfway through the story, I didn’t feel anything. It happens and then the narrative moves on.  This may be because the story doesn’t really treat it like a big deal either. None of the major events that put the characters in an impossible situation felt as big a deal as I think they should have been. I believe the main reason for this is because it seems like the reader is missing major aspects of the narrative. The story has major time jumps that put certain events at an emotional arm’s length from the characters in the story. Personally, I would have liked to see the direct aftermath of these events.

Another thing that could account for this is the point of view of the story. The story is told from an all seeing third person narrator that follows the perspectives of several of Alice Island’s inhabitants. I don’t usually have a problem with this perspective but I felt a good portion of the important information in the narrative came from the narrator telling us this information.

Overall, however, I found this book a very pleasant read. I would recommend it to anyone who loves books because the story does a good job in showing its audience why books are important. They are more than words written on paper. They connect with the reader showing worlds or perspectives that we may never have encountered. The emotions that they convey fill our hearts and make us think.

Other Things of Note:

I felt that the story lacked somewhat in concrete descriptive details. The only place I could really see in the story was the bookstore. I would have loved to see more of Alice Island. I want to be in the places these characters dwell.

Though I adored most of the characters, I had my qualms with a few quirks. Maya, in the beginning, didn’t really feel like a real child at certain points. I still loved her character but I had trouble seeing her as a little girl.

There were one or two other characters that I didn’t really care for by story’s end. For spoiler reasons, I won’t go into it. I will say however, that due to the story’s avoidance of serious drama, I felt that I could have liked a certain couple more if we actually got to see them interacting with their problems more.

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