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Book Review

‘The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry‘


bookCourtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Shirley Shiffler

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

April 1, 2014

$ 24.95


260 Pages

The very charming “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” is a delightful story of a bitter, crabby, middle-aged man who welcomes loneliness and isolation but, in spite of himself, is eventually drawn back into a life of fulfillment and joy.

A.J. is the owner of a small bookstore, mourning the untimely loss of his young wife and dealing with a decline in business. The book opens with Amelia, an optimistic publisher’s sales rep, taking the ferry to an island off the coast of Massachusetts to call on him. As she approaches Island Books, she notices the faded sign hanging above the door that states. “No Man Is An Island; Every Book Is A World.” This is ironic, because A.J. has been doing everything he can during the past two years to make himself an island, pushing away the rest of world.

When Amelia meets with him, he is irritated by her youthful enthusiasm and not interested in her catalogs or suggestions from the publishers. He rudely states that he does not clutter his shelves and continues with a rather amusing tirade where he tells her everything he will not stock, ending with “it goes without saying — vampires.” Amelia backs off, but not without handing him one book, which he finally reads months later. That book, her continued visits and a very unexpected special delivery on his doorstep, cause changes in his life and allow — even force — him to open up to the possibility of letting love into his life again.

Told with feeling and humor, this is a lovely homage to independent bookstores, as well as book lovers. CV

Shirley Shiffler grew up in Urbandale, graduated from Drake University, lives in the Beaverdale neighborhood, and is still working on finishing last year’s summer reading list.

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