After writing my post about books that follow a particular title trend, I picked up this one from that list. I read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin over Thanksgiving weekend and it was a nice light read with a charming atmosphere, entertaining and unique characters, implausibly plausible incidents manufacturing drama for a small tourist town that is essentially shut down for the season half the year.
It all begins when there is a changeover of the publishing representative responsible for pitching new releases to the bookstore in town, which is run by the titular character. The new representative, a young-ish woman with a liking for charming and romantic memoirs, shakes up Fikry’s conception of what is worth stocking his shelves with… and of course, she ends by shaking up more in his life than that. When the truth about the memoir she recommends comes out in a chaos-filled afternoon author reading much later, the lines between life and fiction are called into question.
The story is framed around letters from A.J. Fikry to someone, containing book recommendations and some of his personal thoughts about them. As with most stories that centre around books and bookstores, I’m always interested in the books that are mentioned and evaluated within them, and these are no exception. Fikry has some funny critiques of books and genres that are enjoyable even if I wasn’t familiar with everything mentioned. As the story progresses, the character to whom Fikry is writing the recommendations appears in the story as a toddler, left in his bookstore unattended on the same night a young woman drowns herself in the nearby ocean. With the help of his sister-in-law, Fikry adopts the orphaned child and begins assembling an unconventional little family, eventually including the book representative.
There are several unexpected revelations wrapping up mysteries that are critical to the story, but the characters never expressly pursue them until they are faced with the answer, sometimes years later. The time skips forward quite a bit, but it helps keep things moving, rather than filling space and time with more day-in-the-life type of trivia. The revelations may seem a bit convenient, but then, all of the events in this tale are rather on the unlikely side, creating a kind of fairy-tale sequencing (complete with a villain getting their deserved punishment by fate) but set in the real world.
I am a sucker for a book about books and bookstores, so I was glad to read this one though it wasn’t destined to find a permanent place on my shelf. I put it in a local bookbox/free library for someone else to enjoy a funny, emotional contemporary fiction read with a happily ever after.