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Bookworm: 'A. J. Fikry' explores how stories shape lives

By Kathleen Duncan
June 4, 2014 at 1:04 a.m.


"You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?"

A. J. Fikry is the owner of Island Books, a solitary, small bookstore on the Island of Alice. Lately, his life has taken a turn for the worst. His wife has died, his rare selection of Poe poems was stolen, and his bookstore is not doing well.

Though he loves books and all they offer, he no longer looks forward to a long life running his haven for literature. He is terribly unhappy and slowly isolating himself further from anyone and everyone who could help him.

One day, Fikry goes on a run, leaving his shop door unlocked because he feels there is nothing left of any worth in his life to steal. When he returns, he finds a surprise inside his shop - a small, adorable, diapered surprise named Maya.

Maya has been left with a note on her jacket from her mother saying that she hoped Maya would grow up in a bookstore. And that's that.

Maya completely changes Fikry's life, as tiny humans tend to do. Taking care of something outside of yourself rather than looking inward constantly can improve a person tremendously, and it does so for Fikry. He becomes involved in the community, hosts book clubs, starts to make friends again and even lets his sister-in-law back into his life to help out.

Maya grows up devouring books while developing a love of everything literary.

As their lives progress together, the story turns from a meandering sweet existence that revolves around books to a much more dramatic turn of events.

I admit, I was taken aback. Sometimes, it feels as though authors introduce calamities just to move the plot forward rather than because they are a natural progression of that character's story. There were a couple moments in the second half of this book that felt like this.

Despite those moments, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would read it again.

Each chapter starts with a book reference and a personal note from A.J., which will make all book lovers smile with each little peek into his bibliophilic heart.

"The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevin is a delightful novel about the power of stories to capture our hearts and change our lives.

At its core, it is a simple story about why we read and how every second chance could be our next big adventure.

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