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

Overview

A New York Times Bestseller, a #1 Indie Next Pick, and a #1 LibraryReads Selection

“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. J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books, has recently endured some tough years: his ...

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

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Overview

A New York Times Bestseller, a #1 Indie Next Pick, and a #1 LibraryReads Selection

“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. J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books, has recently endured some tough years: his wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession--a rare edition of Poe poems--has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, instead of offering solace, are yet another reminder of a world that is changing too rapidly. Until a most unexpected occurrence gives him the chance to make his life over and see things anew.

Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books--an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

“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.” —Library Journal, starred review

“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

“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

“Zevin is a deft writer, clever and witty.” —Publishers Weekly

“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

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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....

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

Library Journal
★ 02/01/2014
A.J. Fikry is the owner of Island Books on Alice Island (think Martha's Vineyard) near Hyannis, MA. Over his porch hangs the faded sign "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A.J. is a young widower, struggling to keep the bookstore afloat and his increasingly lonely life intact. Matchmaking attempts by the islanders for Fikry have failed miserably. His prickly reactions to friends and customers have discouraged attempts to help him heal. Even the publishers' sales reps who call on the store cringe at his strident and curmudgeonly manner. Then one day A.J. discovers in his store a child abandoned by her mother, and his life takes a surprising turn. Maya is a bright and precocious two-year-old who steals his heart. As word spreads of his efforts at single parenting, the store becomes a community focus once again, and everyone takes a hand in raising young Maya—including a charming rep who had been so gruffly chased away. VERDICT 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.—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616204518
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 1/6/2015
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,384,513

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.

Biography

Gabrielle Zevin, in her own words:

"Before I liked to write, I liked to type. I remember visiting my grandmother Adele in Ponce Inlet, Florida, when I was three years old, and she had an IBM electric typewriter. I thought that this electric typewriter was about the most fascinating toy in the world -- I liked the little bell and the sounds and the feel of the keys and especially the erase key. Grandma Adele would set me up with plenty of paper and I'd be entertained for hours. I would type pages and pages, mainly nonsense, but sometimes my name or lists of words I knew. I can't remember when the nonsense changed into something more organized and storylike, it just did. (Will the monkey eventually type Shakespeare? Not yet.) The first stories I wrote were autobiographies, because, at that age, I found myself a most intriguing subject. Still, the autobiographies were largely fictionalized. I'd sometimes leave space for illustrations and sew the pages together when I was done. And for many years, this was the extent of my fiction career.

"When I was around eight, I learned how to touch-type at school, and I received a computer as a present. I started writing plays, and for many years I thought I would be a playwright. Over the years, I had studiously managed to write everything but novels -- I had been a copious pen pal, a first-class transcriptionist, a professional screenwriter (still am, actually), a teen music reviewer, a mediocre research-paper writer, and, of course, a writer of plays. So, although I was not writing novels, I was always writing something. Actually, I hadn't ever felt any particular calling to be a novelist, and I clearly remember telling a friend of mine about six months before I started work on Elsewhere that I would NEVER write a novel. And then I thought of the idea for Elsewhere, which did not seem to want to be a play or a screenplay. It kept sounding awfully novelish in my head, and though I was a little scared, I just sat in front of my computer and started to type. So it was fortunate that I liked typing, because I would be typing Liz's story for many a moon. Although I still write screenplays, I've written two other novels since writing Elsewhere. And I'm happy to report that I still like the sound of the keys."

Gabrielle Zevin has had several screenplays optioned by film studios. Gabrielle is a 2000 graduate of Harvard with a degree in English and American literature. She was born in New York and lives there still with one pug dog, Mrs. DeWinter, and her partner of ten years, director Hans Canosa.

Author biography courtesy of Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Zevin:

"I don't believe in writer's block."

"I own a pug dog, like the one in Elsewhere."

"My first novel, Elsewhere, was actually published three months after my second novel, Margarettown."

"For me, writing about the afterlife was really a way to discuss the important things about this life."

"I wish that the adults who are 'in power' cared more about what their children read. Books are incredibly powerful when we are young -- the books I read as a child have stayed with me my entire life -- and yet, the people who write about books, for the most part, completely ignore children's literature."

"One of my favorite book quotes is from The Unbearable Lightness of Being: 'We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.' "

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 24, 1977
    2. Place of Birth:
      Poughkeepsie, New York
    1. Education:
      A.B. in English and American Literature, Harvard College, 2000
    2. Website:

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