Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bookish Charm

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Reviewed by Diane K.M.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is not a perfect novel, but it is filled with bookish charm and easy grace.

I picked up "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" at just the right time. I wanted something light and entertaining, and (hopefully) with a happy ending. And that is what I got, with the bonus of lots of literary references, some small-town whimsy and even a little romance.

A. J. Fikry is a cranky bookstore owner in New England. His life is in a rut: He lost his wife, his store is struggling and then his rare copy of Edgar Allen Poe poems is stolen. His fortunes change when a precocious child is abandoned in his store, and Fikry surprises everyone in the town by deciding to adopt her.

While the plot is formulaic -- Grouchy Man Finds Love! -- what kicked it into the Charming category were its fun bookish comments. Fikry is a man who has lots of opinions about books. Check out this rant he delivers to a publisher's sales rep:

"I do not like postmodernism, postapocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn't be -- basically, gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other major world tragedy to be distasteful -- nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying. I do not like children's books, especially ones with orphans, and I prefer not to clutter my shelves with young adult. I do not like anything over four hundred pages or under one hundred fifty pages. I am repulsed by ghostwritten novels by reality television stars, celebrity pictures books, sports memoirs, movie tie-in editions, novelty items, and -- I imagined this goes without saying -- vampires. I rarely stock debuts, chick lit, poetry, or translations. I would prefer not to stock series, but the demands of my pocketbook require me to. For your part, you needn't tell me about the 'next big series' until it is ensconced on the New York Times Best Sellers list."

Hahaha! While I agree with some but not all of that speech, the point is that I enjoy characters who themselves are well-read and literary. Fikry lists different authors and stories throughout the book, and I'm excited to go look up those I have not yet read.

The book has some good bookish quotes and your usual colorful cast of small-town characters. This is a pleasant, entertaining novel and was perfect for summer.

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