The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: Book Review
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin follows the story of (you’ll never guess) A.J. Fikry, who owns and manages a bookstore on a small island off the cost of Connecticut. Readers first meet A.J. a year after his wife’s death when he is bordering on being an alcoholic. When a child is left in A.J.’s bookstore with a note saying the mother can no longer take care of her, A.J.’s life begins to change.
What I liked about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry:
A.J.’s comments on short stories. Each chapter begins with a short description and/or A.J.’s thoughts on a specific short story. These snippets are in first person, unlike the rest of the book, which gives the reader a more direct connection to A.J. At the end of the book, we realize when and why A.J. is writing down his comments on these short stories and it is a great way to tie the book together.
The full-circle narrative. As this novel is the story of an individual’s life, I appreciated the full-circle effect that the first and last chapters of the books connect.
The first chapter. As stated above, I enjoyed the full-circle effect that the first and last chapter created but before I got to that end, I disliked the beginning very much. Because the title makes it so clear that A.J. Fikry is the main character, its strange that the book begins with A.J. acting like a side character, while the main focus is on someone who at the time seems insignificant.
The objective 3rd person narration. The narration felt imbalanced. At times the narrator felt like a typical objective narrator that only describes the visible facts of a story, but there were times when the narrator jumped into multiple character’s thoughts. Jumping in and out of characters’ thoughts felt jarring to me. There were times when a paragraph would start off in one character’s perspective and halfway through the paragraph, we would suddenly be seeing things from a different character’s perspective.
I wanted A.J. to narrate his story. There is one clear reason why Zevin didn’t write the story from A.J.’s perspective but I still feel the urge that writing it from A.J.’s perspective (or maybe 3rd person limited on A.J.) would have allowed the readers to connect to the story much more.
This book should have made me cry but it didn’t. Even though all the characters in this novel LOVED books and I LOVE books, I did not feel a great connection with them. A lot of it was due to the awkward perspectives described above but the characters seemed somewhat mundane. No one had a really strong characteristic that made me latch on to the.
It felt like a YA novel. The plot went by very quick, the language was simple, and everything was tied up perfectly at the end. These are not necessarily bad things, but it gave the novel a very Young Adult feel that I didn’t enjoy.
2 Stars. As you can see above, my dislikes of this book outweighed the likes. The writing did not read smoothly and I did not connect with the characters when I felt I should have.