The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin


It’s funny how a book will find you when you least expect.

The latest example of this phenomenon for me is the short novel, The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.

This is how it came to me.

I was out scouting for books to resell through the Amazon FBA program and located it in a thrift store for 50 cents or so.  It wasn’t until I listed the book for sale that I noticed the liner notes, which described it as a book lover’s book.  I had already shipped it off to Amazon’s warehouse, but something tugged at me, and I went online and purchased a new copy for myself.

I have to confess that in the last year or two most of my reading has been nonfiction. But when the book arrived I determined to give it a try.  It didn’t start with a bang, gallop out of the chute.  Rather its pace mimicked that of a browse through a used book store, one of those strolling delights we seldom encounter in a digital, fast-paced world.

I continued to read.

To my great joy.

This is the first of Gabrielle Zevin’s works I have encountered. I thought at first that it was a debut novel because it possessed the idealism of a writer who has yet to experience the mind numbing cynicism authors stack up over the course of years. In truth the joke was on me, for it was Zevin’s eighth or ninth book.

What I enjoyed about Fikry the most was its carefully and beautifully contrived predictability. I felt as if the author knew very well how she was employing the oldest gimmicks of the writing trade to lure me in and manipulate me.

That doesn’t sound like praise, you say.

Oh, but it is.

A good book should be predictable.  Its use of universal truths is what connects it to all readers everywhere, and the strange thing about perennial wisdom is that it remains the same from generation to generation.

Can we tire of love? Do we ever weary of meeting good people?  Is a homage to books ever something stale and unsavory?

Couple those principles with a dry wit and the formula is bound to be a winner.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a rare find, a sketch book of scenes and ideas which leaves the reader to fill in the gaps, to wonder, to yearn for more.

Perhaps it’s the unsatisfied yearning that makes the book most remarkable. The paperback version runs to 258 pages. It could have been 750.  But if Zevin had taken 750 pages to tell a fuller story, she would have greatly diminished the novel’s power.

This is a must read for book lovers, especially those with a literary fiction bent.  But it is also a romance, a mystery and a fictional memoir.

Books like that are why a town isn’t a town without a book store.

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