Charming story of a storied life

This story takes place in a purple Victorian cottage, which is in fact a small, intimate bookstore, situated on an island named Alice. What more could a really avid reader wish for?

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

By Gabrielle Zevin

Viking Publishing

This story takes place in a purple Victorian cottage, which is in fact a small, intimate bookstore, situated on an island named Alice. What more could a really avid reader wish for?

Island Books is owned by A.J. Fikry. Of course, he is more than a bookseller — the sign over the store says: “Island Books, Alice Island’s Exclusive Provider of Fine Literary Content since 1999,” and under this, “No Man is an Island, Every Book is a World.”

It really matters to A.J. what people read, so he does not stock dross.

He is grumpy and combative, and presently his bookstore is not doing well.

The reason is that the store was first established by A.J. and his wife, Nic, and now she is dead.

He is 39-years-old and slowly becoming an alcoholic.

Amelia Loman is the new book rep for Knightly Publishing House.

She has come to Alice Island by ferry to show A.J. the new list.

She is a replacement for the former rep who has died.

A.J. is in no mood to entertain a new book rep and no one told him the former one had died, so he not so gently tells her to leave.

So we know where this is all going.

Some books are more easily entered than others, and we are off to a slow start.

Things pick up when someone leaves a small child in the bookstore. Pinned on to the child’s Elmo doll is a note urging A.J. to care for the child since the mother cannot.

Maya, the little girl, says she is two years old.

In fact, she says many things that most two-year-olds don’t say. OK, she is precocious, and of course she changes the life of A.J.

This is not a very deep story and it is a bit predictable.

The character of Amelia is well developed and she is likable and believable.

As the bookstore becomes more successful, the town people add to the story.

Also, every chapter begins with a synopsis of a title that is pertinent to the coming action, and they are well done.

The presence of a child in his life is changing A.J. for the better, so would we be surprised if he found new love?

Other details in the story are: the theft of a rare and valuable edition, not kept under lock and key in this very small summer village; a charming resident author who keeps forgetting who he is married to; and a police chief who rediscovers the joy of reading and brings the entire police force with him to readers club.

To say nothing of the author asked to do a reading and he seems unfamiliar with his book.

I got a bit nostalgic for the old independent bookstore eking out a living, buying stock with an eye to raising the reading experience in the community.

All in all, it’s a charming and enjoyable story.

Peggy Freeman is a local freelance books reviewer.

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