I think that here in the book community we can all agree that there’s hardly anything better than books about books, but more importantly, such books that are written well. We show our love for books in various ways: by acquiring and collecting them, by talking and writing about them, by giving them out to our friends, by gifting them to people… But you know who love books the most? Booksellers. And I’m not talking about the big names with branches in every neighborhood. I’m talking about owners of the small independent bookstores, the ones I wish there was just one of near me. And this desire has definitely been heightened by this book which has opened my eyes to what that experience is like while simultaneously touching every bit of me with how it discusses the love of books.
I’ve vowed to not write super long reviews, and to focus on just the things that make a book standout, so let’s try to do that.
I was slightly concerned that this book would just be about loving books –witty conversations about the written word and little substance, or the way A.J. Fikry would describe side dishes. I’m glad to announce that it definitely isn’t. There is a plot with A+, well-fleshed-out characters, and it is all brilliant in every possible way. One could say that the plot is about how a mother abandons her daughter in a bookstore and how that changes the life of the bookseller. But it’s not just about that. Sure, this is how it starts out, but soon, it branches out in different directions to include love, friendship, and even death. There are quite interesting twists along the way; they are subtle and the story is constructed around them impeccably so they’re not too undetectable but also not too easy that you’d know what’s coming before it does. And I loved that!
I must also mention how book-related sentimentality is manifested throughout the book. We readers view the world in a way that others don’t; we understand that there’s a million way things could go. And I don’t know about you, but I compare things –occurrences, people, experiences– in my life to books all the time. The main character of the book, A.J. Fikry, also poses several important questions regarding reading, ones that I’m sure have crossed the minds of many of us and dwells on them every now and then, making this book feel like home. Not only is it about reading, but it makes you think about why you read, how the way you do it affects your life, and how the extent to which you let reading affect your life make you the person you are today.
One part of the story reminded me of the Fault in Our Stars. Like Hazel Grace, a character called Amelia loves this certain books and this author and we get to see her try to get to meet the author and all the craziness that ensues. This was one of my absolute favourite parts. The book does mention lots of real written works, classics and even some modern publications, but this one in particular –Amelia’s book– is made up. But the way she and Fikry talk about it makes me wish it did exist, the same way I felt when I was reading the Fault in Our Stars.
I believe it’s always important to talk about the ending. Because nothing is more disappointing than a great book with a horrible unworthy ending. This absolutely wasn’t that. It was perfect and I teared up. I would’ve cried if my mother wasn’t distracting me while I was going through that crucial part. I sit here and write and my heart aches a little because I’ll miss it. You know how they tell you that if you know there’s a book you don’t think you’ll read again, you should give it away? So far in my reading life, which is like 3.5 years, I haven’t had the chance to really re-read anything. But this book… This is the book I would take off the shelf every once in a while and just flip through for a while, and then eventually fully reread. It’s warm and well-written, and the characters… I see a little of myself in each of them.
I’m quite glad that this is the book I got to kick off this year’s reading with. Yes, I was slowly being killed by Atonement the past few days, but thank God this book has saved me. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will be released early in April, and you can already pre-order it off the Book Depository now. I haven’t searched on other online bookstores, though, so you might find it on your preferred one as well.
I hope you’re having a great January! Let me know if you’ve read anything by Gabrielle Zevin and which of her things should I tackle next, and also let me know if you’ll be buying the book, or if you’ve been eyeing it for a while now.
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