Whatever weekend plans you have, cancel them. I’m serious. They simply cannot be better than sitting down and giving a day to Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J.Firky. I absolutely adored this novel, in fact along with Victor Lavalle’s The Changeling, which is a very different kind of book altogether, it’s my favorite book of the year. If Alice Island and Island Books actually existed, I would want to move there.
A.J.Fikry is the owner of Island Books, a bookstore that sits, like its owner, at the very heart of the community. AJ is a widower and when we first meet him, a man of remarkably difficult character. One day something surprising is left in his shop that, over the following years, proceeds to change his life dramatically for the better. It is the development of AJ and the reciprocal impact of the various characters in this novel that makes this book so special. Zevin crafts AJ so well that you quickly think you know him, flaws and all and somewhere along the way, you begin to root for him in the most fundamental of ways.
Zevin has a special gift when it comes to writing characters. It can be such a tricky area for novelists to give each person their own distinct voice, but not so for this writer. Each character is carefully and honestly developed, so that they become not only AJ’s friends, but yours too. I recently read Young Jane Young by the same author and hadn’t for a second thought that I would enjoy it as much as I did, but again, it was the character development that pulled you in. Pages turn effortlessly and happiness builds. Yes, there are sad points, but it’s very human and the novel doesn’t suffer for it.
The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry is, at the end of the day, a book that leaves you happy and optimistic and that is something that we could all do with more of in our lives.