Monday, June 29, 2015

BookLook April 2015
Debbie Balzotti
“The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin
Sometimes I choose a New York Times bestseller book because the reviews make it sound really, really good. Sometimes I get burned – but not this time. “Funny, tender, and moving, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry reminds us all exactly why we read…” That’s just one of the hooks that caught my attention.
A.J. Fikry is a lonely bookstore owner who has hit rock-bottom. He lives a solitary life after the death of his beloved wife above his little bookstore where his grumpy attitude and snobby book choices are about to put him out of business. And now his rare collection of Poe poems has been stolen while he lay passed out in a sad, drunken stupor. What’s left to live for?
Of course things suddenly change and A.J. discovers he has many reasons to continue living and selling books. An entertaining cast of supporting characters bring him back to life and love and he learns that not everything comes from books. Lessons about love and forgiveness and redemption have to be experienced in real life.
I loved the author’s narrative style and use of language. A wholesale book sales rep is desperately trying to find something he will buy for his store, but he rejects every suggestions. Finally, she asks him to tell her what he likes.
“Like,” he repeats with distaste, “How about I tell you what I don’t like? I do not like postmodernism, postapocalptic settings, postmortem narrators or magic realism. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful – nonfiction only, please. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and I imagine this goes without saying – vampires.”

As his rant continues down the page I find my head nodding in agreement. This is a book for those who love reading and small independent book stores. I had to buy this book from a big bookstore, but I will continue to purchase as often as possible from book stores owned by characters like A.J. Fikry.

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