The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

( 48 )

Overview

A faded sign hangs above the porch of the Victorian cottage that is home to Island Books. It bears the adage

"NO MAN IS AN ISLAND; EVERY BOOK IS A WORLD."

A. J. Fikry, the bookstore’s irascible owner, is about to discover what that ...

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The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel

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Overview

A faded sign hangs above the porch of the Victorian cottage that is home to Island Books. It bears the adage

"NO MAN IS AN ISLAND; EVERY BOOK IS A WORLD."

A. J. Fikry, the bookstore’s irascible owner, is about to discover what that means.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us of what saves us all from a life of loneliness and isolation: our sense of empathy; our ability to love and be loved; our willingness to care and be cared for.” —Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“A breezy, big-hearted treat, especially if you’ve ever wondered about the inner workings of America’s national treasures—neighborhood bookstores.” —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

“This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love—love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The sign above his Island Books says, "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World," but grumpy bookstore owner A.J. Fikry seems like a living refutation of its meaning. Recently widowed, his sales falling precipitously, and his prize rare book missing, A.J. finds little comfort even in the company of books. Then just when it seems like he has become an unreachable island, a large package arrives that begins to change everything....

Publishers Weekly
01/20/2014
The only thing that’s “storied” in the life of A.J. Fikry, a curmudgeonly independent bookseller, in this funny, sad novel from Zevin (The Hole We’re In), is his obvious love of literature—particularly short stories. Fikry runs Island Books, located on Alice Island, a fictional version of Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a “persnickety little bookstore,” in the words of Amelia Loman, the new sales rep for Knightley Press. Her first meeting with Fikry does not go well. He’s disgruntled by the state of publishing, and bereft because his beloved wife, Nic, recently died in a car accident. Soon after the meeting, he suffers another loss: a rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Tamerlane (Fikry’s primary retirement asset) goes missing. But then Fikry finds an abandoned toddler in his bookstore with a note saying, “This is Maya. She is twenty-five months old.” Somewhat unbelievably, Maya ends up in his care and, predictably enough, opens the irascible bookseller’s heart. The surprisingly expansive story includes a romance between Fikry and Amelia, and follows Maya to the age of 18 before arriving at a bittersweet denouement. Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)
Review quotes

“Zevin has done something old-fashioned and fairly rare these days. She has written an entertaining novel, modest in its scope, engaging and funny without being cloying or sentimental. On top of all that, it is marvelously optimistic about the future of books and bookstores and the people who love both.” —The Washington Post

“This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love--love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

“[A] jaunty little novel.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Wade into summer reading with this sweet yet soulful tale of love, loss, the power of friendship--and books. Like sunshine on a breezy spring day, you won't want it to end.” —Family Circle

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us what saves us all from a life of loneliness and isolation: our sense of empathy; our ability to love and be loved; our willingness to care and be cared for. Gabrielle Zevin has written a wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time.” —Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Readers who delighted in Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Jessica Brockmole's Letters from Skye will be equally captivated by this adult novel by a popular YA author about a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving, it reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love.” —Library Journal, starred review

“A beautiful story about getting a second chance at love. A-” —The A. V. Club

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a breezy, big-hearted treat, especially if you've ever wondered about the inner workings of America's national treasures--neighborhood bookstores.” —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

“In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books . . . Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, wonderful critiques of classic titles, and very funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere.” —Booklist

From the Publisher
“Zevin has done something old-fashioned and fairly rare these days. She has written an entertaining novel, modest in its scope, engaging and funny without being cloying or sentimental. On top of all that, it is marvelously optimistic about the future of books and bookstores and the people who love both.” —The Washington Post

“This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love—love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

“[A] jaunty little novel.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Wade into summer reading with this sweet yet soulful tale of love, loss, the power of friendship—and books. Like sunshine on a breezy spring day, you won't want it to end.” —Family Circle

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us what saves us all from a life of loneliness and isolation: our sense of empathy; our ability to love and be loved; our willingness to care and be cared for. Gabrielle Zevin has written a wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time.” —Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

“Readers who delighted in Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Jessica Brockmole's Letters from Skye will be equally captivated by this adult novel by a popular YA author about a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving, it reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love.” —Library Journal, starred review

“A beautiful story about getting a second chance at love. A-” —The A. V. Club

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a breezy, big-hearted treat, especially if you've ever wondered about the inner workings of America's national treasures—neighborhood bookstores.” —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

“In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books . . . Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, wonderful critiques of classic titles, and very funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere.” —Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-06
Zevin (Margarettown, 2006, etc.) chronicles the life of A. J. Fikry, a man who holds no brief for random acts, who yearns for a distinct narrative, who flounders about until his life is reordered by happenstance. Fikry owns Island Books on Alice Island, a summer destination off Massachusetts—think Nantucket. He's not yet 40 but already widowed, his wife, Nic, dead in an auto accident. Fikry drinks. Island Books drifts toward bankruptcy. Then, within a span of days, his rare copy of Poe's Tamerlane (worth $400,000) is stolen, and 2-year-old Maya is deposited at his bookstore. Fikry cannot bear to leave the precocious child to the system once it becomes apparent her single mother has drowned herself in the sea. He adopts Maya, spurred by her immediate attachment to him. That decision detours "his plan to drink himself to death" and reinvigorates his life and his bookstore. Add Amelia Loman, quirky traveling sales representative for Knightley Press, and a romance that takes four years to begin, and there's a Nicholas Sparks quality to this novel about people who love books but who cannot find someone to love. With a wry appreciation for the travails of bookstore owners—A. J. doesn't like e-readers—Zevin writes characters of a type, certainly, but ones who nonetheless inspire empathy. Among others, there are the bright and sweet-natured Maya, who morphs into an insecure but still precocious teenager; Lambiase, local police chief who finds in Firky the friend who expands his life; A. J's brother-in-law, Daniel Parish, a once–best-selling author riding out a descending career arc; and Daniel's wife, Ismay, who sees A. J. as everything Daniel should be. All fit the milieu perfectly in a plot that spins out as expected, bookended by tragedy. Zevin writes characters who grow and prosper, mainly A. J. and Lambiase, in a narrative that is sometimes sentimental, sometimes funny, sometimes true to life and always entertaining. A likable literary love story about selling books and finding love.
BookPage
“Zevin has done something old-fashioned and fairly rare these days. She has written an entertaining novel, modest in its scope, engaging and funny without being cloying or sentimental. On top of all that, it is marvelously optimistic about the future of books and bookstores and the people who love both.”
The Washington Post
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Fikry and his motley group of friends and family are easy to cheer for. . . . Much like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, this book could easily become a dark-horse bestseller. It is, after all, quite charming.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry has a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance, but is at its core a love story: love of books, love of family, love of community. It is as enchanting a book as you will read this year.”
BookPage
Daily American
“Fikry and his motley group of friends and family are easy to cheer for. . . . Much like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, this book could easily become a dark-horse bestseller. It is, after all, quite charming.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Sunday Eagle
“Wonderfully touching.”
Daily American
Booklist
“In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books. . . . Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere.”
Booklist
Family Circle
“In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books. . . . Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere.”
Booklist
The Washington Post
“Not only does Brick illuminate plot subtleties, he also honors the author’s passion for books, bookstores, wordplay, and the connections between love and literature.”
AudioFile [Earphones Award Winner]
NPR
“[A] sweet yet soulful tale of love, loss, the power of friendship—and books. Like sunshine on a breezy spring day, you won’t want it to end.”
Family Circle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616203214
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 732
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Zevin has published six adult and young adult novels, including Elsewhere, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, which has been translated in over twenty languages. She is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (starring Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart), for which she received an Independent Spirit Award nomination. She has also written for the New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered. She lives in Los Angeles. Her website is www.gabriellezevin.com.

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Read an Excerpt

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

A Novel


By Gabrielle Zevin

ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL

Copyright © 2014 Gabrielle Zevin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61620-321-4



CHAPTER 1

Lamb to the Slaughter

1953 / Roald Dahl


Wife kills husband with frozen leg of lamb, then disposes of the '"weapon" by feeding it to the cops. Serviceable-enough Dahl offering, though Lambiase questioned whether a professional housewife could successfully cook a leg of lamb in the manner described—i.e., without thawing, seasoning, or marinade. Wouldn't this result in tough, unevenly cooked meat? My business isn't cooking (or crime), but if you dispute this detail, the whole story begins to unravel. Despite this reservation, it makes the cut because of a girl I know who loved James and the Giant Peach once upon a time.

—A.J.F.


On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor's notes. "Island Books, approximately $350,000.00 per annum in sales, the better portion of that in the summer months to folks on holiday," Harvey Rhodes reports. "Six hundred square feet of selling space. No full-time employees other than owner. Very small children's section. Fledgling online presence. Poor community outreach. Inventory emphasizes the literary, which is good for us, but Fikry's tastes are very specific, and without Nic, he can't be counted on to hand-sell. Luckily for him, Island's the only game in town." Amelia yawns—she's nursing a slight hangover—and wonders if one persnickety little bookstore will be worth such a long trip. By the time her nails have hardened, her relentlessly bright-sided nature has kicked in: Of course it's worth it! Her specialty is persnickety little bookstores and the particular breed that runs them. Her talents also include multitasking, selecting the right wine at dinner (and the coordinating skill, tending friends who've had too much to drink), houseplants, strays, and other lost causes.

As she steps off the ferry, her phone rings. She doesn't recognize the number—none of her friends use their phones as phones anymore. Still, she is glad for the diversion and she doesn't want to become the kind of person who thinks that good news can only come from calls one was already expecting and callers one already knows. The caller turns out to be Boyd Flanagan, her third online dating failure, who had taken her to the circus about six months back.

"I tried sending you a message a few weeks ago," he says. "Did you get it?"

She tells him that she recently switched jobs so her devices have been screwed up. "Also, I've been rethinking the whole idea of online dating. Like whether it's really for me."

Boyd doesn't seem to hear that last part. "Would you want to go out again?" he asks.

Re: their date. For a time, the novelty of the circus had distracted from the fact that they had nothing in common. By the end of dinner, the greater truth of their incompatibility had been revealed. Perhaps it should have been obvious from their inability to reach consensus on an appetizer or from his main course admission that he disliked "old things"—antiques, houses, dogs, people. Still, Amelia had not allowed herself to be certain until dessert, when she'd asked him about the book that had had the greatest influence on his life, and he'd replied Principles of Accounting, Part II.

Gently, she tells him no, she would rather not go out again.

She can hear Boyd breathing, fluttery and irregular. She worries that he might be crying. "Are you all right?" she asks.

"Don't patronize me."

Amelia knows she should hang up, but she doesn't. Some part of her wants the story. What is the point of bad dates if not to have amusing anecdotes for your friends? "Excuse me?"

"You'll notice I didn't call you right away, Amelia," he says. "I didn't call you because I had met someone better, and when that didn't work out, I decided to give you a second chance. So don't be thinking you're superior. You've got a decent smile, I'll give you that, but your teeth are too big and so is your ass and you're not twenty-five anymore even if you drink like you are. You shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth." The gift horse begins to cry. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry."

"It's fine, Boyd."

"What's wrong with me? The circus was fun, right? And I'm not so bad."

"You were great. The circus was very creative."

"But there must be a reason you don't like me. Be honest."

At this point, there are many reasons not to like him. She picks one. "Do you remember when I said I worked in publishing and you said you weren't much of a reader?"

"You're a snob," he concludes.

"About some things, I suppose I am. Listen, Boyd, I'm working. I have to go." Amelia hangs up the phone. She is not vain about her looks and she certainly doesn't value the opinion of Boyd Flanagan, who hadn't really been talking to her anyway. She is just his most recent disappointment. She has had disappointments, too.

She is thirty-one years old and she thinks she should have met someone by now.

And yet ...

Amelia the bright-sider believes it is better to be alone than to be with someone who doesn't share your sensibilities and interests. (It is, right?)

Her mother likes to say that novels have ruined Amelia for real men. This observation insults Amelia because it implies that she only reads books with classically romantic heroes. She does not mind the occasional novel with a romantic hero but her reading tastes are far more varied than that. Furthermore, she adores Humbert Humbert as a character while accepting the fact that she wouldn't really want him for a life partner, a boyfriend, or even a casual acquaintance. She feels the same way about Holden Caulfield, and Misters Rochester and Darcy.

The sign over the porch of the purple Victorian cottage is faded, and Amelia nearly walks past it.


ISLAND BOOKS Alice Island's Exclusive Provider of Fine Literary Content since 1999 No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World


Inside, a teenager minds the till while reading the new Alice Munro collection. "Oh, how is that one?" Amelia asks. Amelia adores Munro, but aside from vacation, she rarely has time to read books that aren't on the list.

"It's for school," the girl replies, as if that settles the question.

Amelia introduces herself as the sales rep from Knightley Press, and the teenager, without looking up from the page, points vaguely to the back. "A.J.'s in his office."

Precarious stacks of ARCs and galleys line the hallway, and Amelia feels the usual flash of despair. The tote bag that is embossing her shoulder has several additions for A.J.'s piles and a catalog filled with other books for her to pitch. She never lies about the books on her list. She never says she loves a book if she doesn't. She can usually find something positive to say about a book or, failing that, the cover or, failing that, the author or, failing that, the author's website. And that's why they pay me the big bucks, Amelia occasionally jokes to herself. She makes $37,000.00 per year plus the possibility of bonuses, though no one who does her job has made a bonus for a very long time.

The door to A. J. Fikry's office is closed. Amelia is halfway to it when the sleeve of her sweater catches on one of the stacks, and one hundred books, maybe more, crash to the ground with a mortifying thunder. The door opens, and A. J. Fikry looks from the wreckage to the dirty-blond giantess, who is frantically trying to repile the books. "Who the hell are you?"

"Amelia Loman." She stacks ten more tomes and half of them tumble down.

"Leave it," A.J. commands. "There's an order to these things. You are not helping. Please leave."

Amelia stands. She is at least four inches taller than A.J. "But we have a meeting."

"We have no meeting," A.J. says.

"We do," Amelia insists. "I e-mailed you last week about the winter list. You said it was fine for me to come by either Thursday or Friday afternoon. I said I'd come on Thursday." The e-mail exchange had been brief, but she knows it was not fiction.

"You're a rep?"

Amelia nods, relieved.

"What publisher again?"

"Knightley."

"Knightley Press is Harvey Rhodes," A.J. replies. "When you e-mailed me last week, I thought you were Harvey's assistant or something."

"I'm Harvey's replacement."

A.J. sighs heavily. "What company has Harvey gone to?"

Harvey is dead, and for a second Amelia considers making a bad joke casting the afterlife as a sort of company and Harvey as an employee in it. "He's dead," she says flatly. "I thought you would have heard." Most of her accounts had already heard. Harvey had been a legend, as much as a sales rep can be a legend. "There was an obituary in the ABA newsletter and maybe one in Publishers Weekly, too," she says by way of apology.

"I don't much follow publishing news," A.J. says. He takes off his thick black glasses and then spends a long time wiping the frames.

"I'm sorry if it's a shock to you." Amelia puts her hand on A.J.'s arm, and he shakes her off.

"What do I care? I barely knew the man. I saw him three times a year. Not enough to call him a friend. And every time I saw him, he was trying to sell me something. This is not friendship."

Amelia can tell that A.J. is in no mood to be pitched the winter list. She should offer to come back some other day. But then she thinks of the two-hour drive to Hyannis and the eighty-minute boat ride to Alice and the ferry schedule, which becomes more irregular after October. "Since I'm here," Amelia says, "would you mind if we went through Knightley's winter titles?"

A.J.'s office is a closet. It has no windows, no pictures on the wall, no family photos on the desk, no knickknacks, no escape. The office has books, inexpensive metal shelves like the kind for a garage, a filing cabinet and an ancient, possibly twentieth-century, desktop computer. A.J. does not offer her a drink, and although Amelia is thirsty, she doesn't ask for one. She clears a chair of books and sits.

Amelia launches into the winter list. It's the smallest list of the year, both in size and expectations. A few big (or at least promising) debuts, but other than that it is filled with the books for which the publisher has the lowest commercial hopes. Despite this, Amelia often likes the "winters" the best. They are the underdogs, the sleepers, the long shots. (It is not too much of a stretch to point out that this is how she sees herself, too.) She leaves for last her favorite book, a memoir written by an eighty-year-old man, a lifelong bachelor who married at the age of seventy-eight. His bride died two years after the wedding at the age of eighty-three. Cancer. According to his bio, the writer worked as a science reporter for various midwestern newspapers, and the prose is precise, funny, not at all maudlin. Amelia had cried uncontrollably on the train from New York to Providence. Amelia knows The Late Bloomer is a small book and that the description sounds more than a little cliche, but she feels sure other people will love it if they give it a chance. In Amelia's experience, most people's problems would be solved if they would only give more things a chance.

Amelia is halfway through describing The Late Bloomer when A.J. puts his head on the desk.

"Is something wrong?" Amelia asks.

"This is not for me," A.J. says.

"Just try the first chapter." Amelia is pushing the galley into his hand. "I know the subject matter could be incredibly corny, but when you see how it's writ—"

He cuts her off, "This is not for me."

"Okay, so I'll tell you about something else."

A.J. takes a deep breath. "You seem like a nice enough young woman, but your predecessor ... The thing is, Harvey knew my tastes. He had the same taste as me."

Amelia sets the galley on the desk. "I'd like the chance to get to know your tastes," she says, feeling a bit like a character in a porno.

He mutters something under his breath. She thinks it sounds like What's the point? but she isn't sure.

Amelia closes the Knightley catalog. "Mr. Fikry, please just tell me what you like."

"Like," he repeats with distaste. "How about I tell you what I don't like? I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn't be—basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful—nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity picture books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and—I imagine this goes without saying—vampires. I rarely stock debuts, chick lit, poetry, or translations. I would prefer not to stock series, but the demands of my pocketbook require me to. For your part, you needn't tell me about the 'next big series' until it is ensconced on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Above all, Ms. Loman, I find slim literary memoirs about little old men whose little old wives have died from cancer to be absolutely intolerable. No matter how well written the sales rep claims they are. No matter how many copies you promise I'll sell on Mother's Day."

Amelia blushes, though she is angry more than embarrassed. She agrees with some of what A.J. has said, but his manner is unnecessarily insulting. Knightley Press doesn't even sell half of that stuff anyway. She studies him. He is older than Amelia but not by much, not by more than ten years. He is too young to like so little. "What do you like?" she asks.

"Everything else," he says. "I will also admit to an occasional weakness for short-story collections. Customers never want to buy them though."

There is only one short-story collection on Amelia's list, a debut. Amelia hasn't read the whole thing, and time dictates that she probably won't, but she liked the first story. An American sixth-grade class and an Indian sixth-grade class participate in an international pen pal program. The narrator is an Indian kid in the American class who keeps feeding comical misinformation about Indian culture to the Americans. She clears her throat, which is still terribly dry. "The Year Bombay Became Mumbai. I think it will have special int—"

"No," he says.

"I haven't even told you what it's about yet."

"Just no."

"But why?"

"If you're honest with yourself, you'll admit that you're only telling me about it because I'm partially Indian and you think this will be my special interest. Am I right?"

Amelia imagines smashing the ancient computer over his head. "I'm telling you about this because you said you liked short stories! And it's the only one on my list. And for the record"—here, she lies—"it's completely wonderful from start to finish. Even if it is a debut.

"And do you know what else? I love debuts. I love discovering something new. It's part of the whole reason I do this job." Amelia rises. Her head is pounding. Maybe she does drink too much? Her head is pounding and her heart is, too. "Do you want my opinion?"

"Not particularly," he says. "What are you, twenty-five?"

"Mr. Fikry, this is a lovely store, but if you continue in this this this"—as a child, she stuttered and it occasionally returns when she is upset; she clears her throat—"this backward way of thinking, there won't be an Island Books before too long."

Amelia sets The Late Bloomer along with the winter catalog on his desk. She trips over the books in the hallway as she leaves.

The next ferry doesn't depart for another hour so she takes her time walking back through town. Outside a Bank of America, a bronze plaque commemorates the summer Herman Melville had spent there, back when the building had been the Alice Inn. She holds out her phone and takes a picture of herself with the plaque. Alice is a nice enough place, but she imagines she won't have reason to be back anytime soon.

She texts her boss in New York: Doesn't look like there'll be any orders from Island.

The boss replies: Don't fret. Only a little account, and Island does the bulk of its ordering in anticipation of the summer when the tourists are there. The guy who runs the place is weird, and Harvey always had better luck selling the spring/summer list. You will, too.


At six o'clock, A.J. tells Molly Klock to leave. "How's the new Munro?" he asks.

She groans. "Why does everyone keep asking me that today?" She is only referring to Amelia, but Molly likes to speak in extremes.

"I suppose because you're reading it."

Molly groans again. "Okay. The people are, I dunno, too human sometimes."

"I think that's rather the point with Munro," he says.

"Dunno. Prefer the old stuff. See you on Monday."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Copyright © 2014 Gabrielle Zevin. Excerpted by permission of ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

PART I,
Lamb to the Slaughter, 3,
The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, 27,
The Luck of Roaring Camp, 41,
What Feels Like the World, 79,
A Good Man Is Hard to Find, 87,
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, 129,
The Girls in Their Summer Dresses, 159,
PART II,
A Conversation with My Father, 173,
A Perfect Day for Bananafish, 187,
The Tell-Tale Heart, 199,
Ironhead, 213,
What We Talk about When We Talk about Love, 239,
The Bookseller, 247,

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 28, 2014

    This was a wonderful read. It would make a great romantic comed

    This was a wonderful read. It would make a great romantic comedy movie. I laughed out loud and I found myself grinning as I was reading.

    Excellent!!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2014

    This was a simply lovely book! I felt like I was in the booksto

    This was a simply lovely book! I felt like I was in the bookstore and it was so warm and comforting. A very quick read and I would love a sequel about Maya, I'm pretty sure she's goingto find her way back to Alice. But a wonderful read. Would reccomend it to anyone who loves books and neighborhood bookstores!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    Just perfect in every way!

    This book is so lovely and perfect and yummy- can a book be yummy? Um yes! A.J is everything. I miss him already and i just finished the book moments ago. This is the kind of book that makes you feel. You feel cozy in his bookstore. You feel attached to Maya instantly. You feel angry and sad right along each character. I sorta secretly hope none of you read it so it can be my secret little love.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2014

    The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a great boo

    The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a great book. It's fascinating and intriguing with each chapter having a little mystery. The book held my attention starting from the first moment I began reading. In a small town, where everyone usually knows everything, to me this book was a beautiful circle of life and love story. I enjoyed reading this book and definitely give it a five star rating. I believe book lovers would savour this novel, but I also recommend The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry to others because it's a fantastic novel and you will enjoy reading it.

    Thank you to The Book Report Network for a complimentary copy.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    This is a charming book that engages the brain and touches the h

    This is a charming book that engages the brain and touches the heart. I am so happy to have come to know these characters, and feeler richer for the time spent in their company. I will be recommending this book highly to friends.


    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2014

    Amazing

    Just read this. I promise you won't regret it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    Delightful, enchanting read! The story itself was great, but I

    Delightful, enchanting read!

    The story itself was great, but I most enjoyed the "specials" along the way--meeting short story titles along the way, connecting with books sold in the book store, reading AJ's reviews, and recognizing his "thoughts" about writers and writing being used throughout the book. I loved watching the characters grow as they each encountered new experiences.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2014

    Quite a beautiful love story

    Very touching. Very beautifully done. A wonderful book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    ¿they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that da

    “they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day." I thought of this quote when I thought of the main character A.J. and how he changed in this book. A.J. Fikry was the owner of a small town bookstore on Alice Island. He bought the store with his wife, who passed away almost two years ago and his only goals now are to drink himself to death and run the bookstore into the ground. Finding a hidden gem in a box of books, he plans to retire on the sale of that book so for A.J., his life is already planned out. Amelia on the other hand, is a sales rep and she comes to visit A.J. hoping to strike up some sales. Grouchy, rude A.J. cuts Amelia’s sales pitch short but not without Amelia pitching her favorite book for which A.J. turns down. Abruptly leaving the store, Amelia leaves the book behind just hoping that he will change his mind. Call it karma, call it whatever you want but years later A.J. opens up the book and a phone call later, he meets up with Amelia again. So much has happened in A.J. life since he has seen Amelia; you would not think this is the same man Amelia walked-out on. It all started when his retirement package came up missing, who would steal his book and what will become of him now? Finding an abandoned toddler in his bookstore after a morning jog, his life just keeps getting more interesting. Island Books has becomes a busy place and A.J.’s circle encompasses many more individuals than he ever thought possible. It’s a trip through life with its mysteries, joys, frustrations and affection.
    This is one of those books that once you get started, you don’t want to stop. The characters have depth and they all were so different and important. A.J. was a hard man at the beginning of the book and bitter with life but at the end of the book, he was like the Grinch. He had changed. The people in the town each had their own thoughts about him and this reflected back on him yet he acted the way he did. This said something about him. The writing was different, not a lot of emotion written in for you but you could feel it. There is so much to like about this book, from the characters to the bookstore setting to the relationships to the mysteries that surround the character’s actions. I highly recommend this book!
    Thank you NetGalley and Algonquin Books for this copy of this book to review.
    “We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone. We are not quite novels. In the end, we are collected works.”

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2014

    An unexpected jewel Some times I run across a reference to a boo

    An unexpected jewel
    Some times I run across a reference to a book that I would probably otherwise never read. This can be a wonderful thing or not.
    THIS was, indeed, wonderful.
    Simply put, this is a book about words and love and people who say them and read them.
    It was a quick read, in large part because i was so engrossed in the characters and their story.
    I highly recommend this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2014

    As the story starts A.J. Fikry is a lonely sad man.   He has los

    As the story starts A.J. Fikry is a lonely sad man.   He has lost his wife and owns a book store that is barely making ends meet.  He is extremely opinionated and never hesitates to tell whoever asks exactly what he thinks.   I had a hard time connecting with A.J. Fikry.   He was not a person that I liked, I did feel bad for him living such a sad life.  As the story continues I begin to understand A.J. a little more.  As people start coming into his life, I see him coming out of his sad world a little more.   One thing that I always liked about A.J. is his absolute love of books, even if I didn’t always agree with his tastes.








    My favorite thing in this book is the bookstore.   I would love to find a small and hometown bookstore that stocks only books that will sell, but not always the most popular books.  Imagine finishing a book, walking into your own home (which is the bookstore) and just picking up another.  Never having to worry about what to read next.  You can change your mind at a whim and pick up another book.   That would be dream like to me.   This bookstore seemed to bring in people, not just readers, but people who were looking after A.J. and the bookstore.  People who cared about what happens to their town and want the bookstore to succeed.  These people became friends and some even family.  

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2014

    This was an entirely delightful book! Well written, literate, w

    This was an entirely delightful book! Well written, literate, well-developed characters that were both human and likeable. I strongly recommend this!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2014

    The Collected Works of A.J.Fikry (aka The Storied Life of A.J.Fi

    The Collected Works of A.J.Fikry (aka The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry) is the fifth stand-alone novel by American author, Gabrielle Zevin. Alice Island, a New England summer destination requiring bus and ferry travel, boasts a main street book store. Island Books is owned by recent widower, A.J.Fikry, an opinionated, often cranky man in his late thirties with a (self-described) porcupine heart. Since the unfortunate accidental death of his beloved wife, his plan has been to drink himself to death and drive his business to ruin. This plan is derailed by three occurrences: thirty-six-year-old sales representative for Knightley Press, Amelia Loman makes her first visit to Island Books to present the publisher’s Winter List (and is treated rather shabbily by A.J.); A.J.’s escape valve, a rare and valuable edition of Tamerlane, a collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe, is stolen; and a bright two-year-old girl named Maya is left in his bookstore. Against all odds, A.J. finds himself (with frequent help from Google and occasional input from the Island’s residents) bringing up a young girl. Zevin has given the reader characters who are appealing despite their flaws, or perhaps because of them. The story has an element of mystery and the plot has a few unexpected twists. Each chapter is prefaced with a paragraph of A.J.’s comments for Maya about a certain literary work: advice for writing and advice for life. It contains many words of wisdom, making it, as others have said, a very quotable book: “Sometimes books don’t find us until the right time” and “We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works” will resonate with many readers. This book is filled with lightness and dark, with laugh-out-loud moments and lines that will have the most cynical reader choking up. It is a book for anyone who loves to read or loves book stores, and lovers of fine literature will be especially captivated. This delightful read is one of those books that is almost impossible to put down and most readers will be sorry to reach the end. A keeper. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2014

    Sweet & Charming

    This is a sweet and charming book that I believe every lover of books will fall in love with.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2014

    This book is a delight! The characters are carefully delineated

    This book is a delight! The characters are carefully delineated and well-drawn, and the plot line is simple, direct, and true. I laughed and smiled many times and enjoyed every sentence. This is an exceptionally good book, and reads quickly; a few hours of your time and you will be done......but then you will be missing the sweet characters you have met. A little gem of a book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    Highly Recommend

    I enjoyed this book. A great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2014

    So well-written--couldn't put it down

    AJF's Storied Life had so many levels of appeal from his reviews of published literature preceding each chapter, to a parent's unexpected love for a child, to adult love and bad relationships, to the charm of the setting. With just a few pages more to savor the next day, I reluctantly closed the book and succumbed to my need for sleep. I can't wait to discuss at book club.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 29, 2014

    Wonderful!

    I was hesitant to read this short book, but discovered one I will read again. The story, the setting, the quotes ~ highly recommended. I have purchased it twice to give as gifts, including a friend in Germany. She loved it and hopes it will be translated to German so she could also give it to friends.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 8, 2014

    My favorite Summer 2014 novel

    Zevin creates a perfect blend : indie bookstore, lovable characters, New England setting, poignant literary quotes. I thoroughly enjoyed this treasure.

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  • Posted July 28, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I absolutely adored Gabrielle Zevin's latest novel, The Storied

    I absolutely adored Gabrielle Zevin's latest novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry! Although murder and mayhem is my favourite genre to read, I need to read a feel good story every so often. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a five star feel good!

    A.J. is the curmudgeonly owner of Island Books. The sign above the door also includes: "No man is an island: every book is a world."

    A.J. has made himself into an island though. His wife has died and so has a part of A.J. He doesn't like people and he drinks too much. A valuable book that was to have funded his retirement has been stolen - and it wasn't insured. What does life have left to offer A.J.? What does A.J. have left to offer to the world? Not much it seems, until the day a unusual 'package' is left in the bookstore.....And so begins a new chapter of life for A.J. Fikry....

    Now, I have no desire to spoil this book for potential readers, so suffice to say, there is romance, heartbreak, heartwarming, drama, humour and much, much more contained within the pages of A.J.'s life. I was completely caught up in Zevin's wonderful story and spent most of one Sunday on Alice Island.

    Zevin has created such a wonderful cast of characters, each with a unique voice and their own story. A.J.'s wry comments and gruff attitude belie a gentle, caring soul. There is a wonderful cast of supporting characters as well. Best supporting goes to Police Chief Lambiese whose slow, easy manner hides an astute mind. I would love to attend the Chief's Choice book club. (with a focus on crime writers)

    The literary references, the bookseller and publisher rep comments and the descriptions of the bookstore will fill any booklover or bookseller with delight. I wanted to live in the little apartment above Island Books and hang out in the store below. Definitely a recommended read, guaranteed to warm the heart and soul.

    I had a quick listen to the audiobook version as well. Scott Brick (one of my favourites) is the reader and I thought his interpretation was spot on.

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