Book ReviewVolume 12 Issue # 10

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

I hadn’t heard a lot about this book when I picked it up, but the little that I had heard was all positive. Some of my favorite reviewers and bloggers had given this a very high rating, so I was looking forward to reading it. I went into this without knowing too much; I mean, yeah, I knew it was about a man who owns a bookstore, but that’s about it. Surprisingly, this book is a lot more than that. It’s about family, about depression and suicide, about love and loss. I really enjoyed the story. Although it wasn’t terribly exciting, it flowed smoothly and was warm-hearted. I loved the characters, and Zevin writes with beautiful fluidity.

I didn’t expect the story of this book to be as rich as it turned out to be. It’s so much more than I ever expected. It covers themes ranging from suicide to love, from loss to perseverance. It has romance, it has lots of awesome book references, it has mystery and it has death, and plenty of it. But despite some of the darker aspects, this book makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, because it’s written with such raw, undisguised honesty. It’s tender and passionate, and because it’s such a quick read, it’s even more impacting.

This was what MADE the book for me. The characters are so real, I can’t even begin to describe them in words. A.J. Fikry is one of those characters that you don’t like at first, but he grows on you. He’s grumpy and cynical, but he’s warm and generous and such a loving person. He’s honest, and everything he feels and the way he feels it is described in such heartbreakingly vivid detail, it feels like you’re a part of him. He’s a rich, rich character, and that’s all I can say, because I can’t explain how much I loved him. Even the secondary characters, Lambiase, Fikry’s friend, is such a fantastic character. His development is subtle, but it’s definitely there. You grow attached to every character in this book because they’re all so well-crafted and well-developed. They are flawed, which makes them seem real. They are as human as you and I, or at least that’s what I felt. If the story doesn’t intrigue you, definitely check out this novel for its characters because they are absolutely stunning.

Zevin’s writing is just the kind I love. It’s not overbearingly flowery. It carries its message and packs a huge punch through its brevity and simplicity. I feel like everything the characters do, every punctuation, every paragraph and space between the letters is thought-out, that everything on the page has a meaning that contributes to the larger picture in the novel. She writes with such poise and fluidity- nothing feels forced, nothing feels overdone or pretentious. She writes with honesty and passion, and it comes across in such a strong way that the reader feels this honesty and passion.