“Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A.J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and then.”
Every now and then, more often than not when I am going through one of my sporadic yet maddening not sure what to read, if anything phases, I wonder why I do it, why I read. Well, this is it. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is it.
A.J. Fikry is an Edgar Allan Poe enthusiast, a specialist of sorts, turned bookseller by the heart of Nic, a woman of poetry with a particular, peculiar and yet endearing thing for vampires. Together they open Island Books, the only bookstore in Alice Island. Then life happens, and it could have been the end had life not happened again… and again, following no particular storyline, having no consistent plot. Had it been a novel and not his own life, he would have probably thrown it at a wall. To be fair, he does try, but it doesn’t stick.
Commonly written off as a snob for his specific taste in literature and awkward-mistakenly-taken-for-standoffish behavior, the epic tale of A.J. Fikry’s life is told through a list of short story recommendations… and I’m afraid that is all I’m willing to say, because I don’t want to end up disclosing by mistake one of the many little revelations that make this book the treasure that it is. I would like future readers to face it as a stranger and have the pleasure of watching it grow into something possibly as familiar as an old friend.
“They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?”
Gabrielle Zevin’s writing is… charming. It doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t shout look at me, how magnificently tailored I am. Instead, it focus its attention on the characters’ voices, giving them a physicality that is almost, if not truly, palpable. If that’s not a gift, I don’t know what is.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is one of those books that blends with reality in such a way that it makes it almost impossible for the reader not to blend with it. These people become family and you get to know their little quirks and that’s how you feel it, you feel it happening. I found myself putting the book down for five minutes at a time, half expecting, daring, fate to change. It didn’t. Oh, but how I appreciated, loved, every moment spent in the company of this book. Quoting A.J. Fikry himself, “Every word is the right one and exactly where it should be.”
As is by now evident, I loved every single thing about this book, but there’s an idea in particular that has my heart full of wonder – life as a collection of works instead of a novel. I needed this. Not making sense as a whole is perhaps what makes sense. After all, is there such thing as linearity when it comes to life? We are made of moments, are we not?
“In the end, we are collected works.”
To every book lover out there, if you haven’t read this, DO IT. You won’t regret it.