The Storied Life of A J Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin, Algonquin Books, 2014, 243 pp
Summary from Goodreads: A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island--from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
I read this for one of my reading groups. It is one of those novels destined to be read by reading groups composed of women. Charming, heartwarming, set in a tiny bookstore on an island in New England with quirky characters, an unusual romance, and a bit of mystery. Oh, and an abandoned child. I read it in one day.
The author has written several novels for both adults and young adults as well as a screenplay. She can write, she can plot. It is just that for me, while I was entertained well enough, I was constantly aware of her recycling of familiar tropes, incidents, and social issues.
I don't begrudge women who like to read comforting stories of how the romantic human heart can be transformed after personal tragedy. We all have tragedies and we all wish to overcome the damage. We certainly all need comforting and most of us could use more romance.
So I appreciate what the author did. I am happy if her bestseller brought her some undoubtedly much needed income. But I need more depth, more grit, and more artistry in the novels I read.