I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.
I wanted to love this book. I didn’t love it, but I certainly liked it. It *should* have been a hit with me. It features books, bookstores, and the importance of reading—all things dear to my heart. There is grief—something that I am all too familiar with—and overcoming it (done that too).
Grumpy, grief-stricken bookstore owner has a child abandoned in his bookstore and ends up adopting her. Very unlikely in my opinion, especially since said fellow has no experience at all with children. I have no experience with children and nothing in the world would convince me to adopt. My personal bias, I guess. Grumpy, grief-stricken bookstore owner also meets charmingly eccentric publisher’s rep and you can probably deduce the rest of the major plot points from there. There are also a couple of parallel plots involving members of Fikry’s circle—his sister-in-law, the chief of police—which I actually really liked. (And I loved that the Law Enforcement Book Club had to ban side-arms to prevent violence during differences of opinion).
If you don’t want to know about the book’s ending, stop reading here.
The ending was a major part my rather lukewarm response to the book. I guess I really have read too many “cancer books,” as one member of my book club calls them. Although I don’t necessarily demand a fairy-tale “happily ever after” ending, I did find this one to be only half ways satisfying. I would have rated this 4 stars if it had ended a couple of chapters earlier, although I would regret missing finding out the remainder of the parallel plot lines.
3 regretful stars.