The first word that comes to mind when I think of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is “cute.” It’s a cute little story that really strives for the emotional punch. For the most part, it succeeds, but I don’t understand how it is able to pull this off.
For one thing, the plot is dumb. Really dumb. A.J. Fikry is a curmudgeon-y 39-year-old who recently lost his wife. He had a near-priceless copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane stolen from his home, which he was planning to sell so that he could finally close his fledgling bookstore, Island Books. On top of all of that, someone abandons a two-year-old in his bookstore, so he ends u raising her as his daughter. But she’s secretly his brother-in-law’s bastard daughter, but that’s neither here nor there.
Lots of other strange things happen plot-wise here, from a suspicious death to a secret ghostwriter to an incredibly rare form of cancer – all of these factors should make me hate this book, and yet I don’t. Not that I loved it either, but for such an outlandish assortment of plot points, it’s a true testament to Zevin’s writing that I was even able to finish this novel.
The only redeeming quality that makes this book readable is A.J. Fikry. He is a really great character, and his vast literary knowledge allows for his perspective to be a fascinating one. Everyone keeps saying that this novel is all about a love of books, and I suppose it is in some ways. What it is really about, though, is A.J.’s love of books, and how that love is really what gets him through the tragedies of his own life. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an easy-read, and in spite of its cutesy-ness, I couldn’t help but like it for its treatment of a well-read life.