Before we begin, I wanted to apologise for the lack of post yesterday, I was busy failing my driver’s test and feeling sorry for myself. Now that that’s over, I can move on with my life and give you what I promised you last week: a review of Gabrielle Zevin’s novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
Firstly, let’s start with a very quick synopsis to get an idea of what I’ll be talking about. This novel’s central character is a widowed man called A.J. Fikry. He owns a bookstore on Alice Island and his business is not doing so great. He has a hard time adjusting to the changes occurring in the publishing world. In fact, he has a hard time adapting to any change at all. However, he is going to be forced to alter his ways when an interesting present is left in his store, a gift that will change his life forever.
I know this synopsis is very short but I don’t want to give too much away. The story is already quite predictable as it is. That’s one of the two main issues I had with this novel. The build-up takes quite a large chunk of the book and once the climax takes place, everything is basically set. Don’t expect to be swept off your feet by the plot development. Even the way the characters will evolve is obvious from the start. However, despite the straightforward plot line, this novel is not boring at all. I actually had a lot of fun reading it. It’s short and sweet which makes for a quick and enjoyable read.
One other element that did really bug me while reading was how vague the timeline is. I found it very hard to get a sense of how much time had passed between certain events. The author gives you hints by mentioning the age of the characters on certain occasions but it still is difficult to know how far other events are from these particular timestamps. I don’t think my explanation is really clear; that’s how confused I am. This confusion unfortunately impacted my reading because I had to go back and try to figure out what happened when and that took away from the fluidity of the novel.
On a more positive note, my favourite aspect of this novel is all the literary references dispersed throughout the story. They got my inner lit-nerd very excited. Each chapter starts with A.J.’s views on a certain short-story which ties in with the content of the chapter. I thought these introductions were a great way to highlight a genre that is so underrated. This book does a great job at representing the challenges that come with working in an ever-changing industry like publishing, no matter what stage of a book’s life you participate in. As someone who intends to work in this field, I found it to be very interesting.
Because I want to keep this review short and sweet (like this novel), I’ll leave it at that. All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. It perfectly fulfilled my expectations of being a fun and quick read despite the issues I’ve had with it. If you’re a book lover like myself, you will definitely enjoy the setting as well as the discussion that is brought up on the role of bookstores in a community and the constant changes taking place in the publishing world.
This book was hard to rate. To be honest, I’m very bad at rating in general. The start of this novel is very promising. Unfortunately, I found that the second part did not match up. I still gave it 4 out of 5 because, although this book didn’t surprise me, it didn’t disappoint either.