The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Zevin, Gabrielle 2019.06You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, “What is your favorite book?”

Finally! A book for book-people! Just kidding, all books are for book-people, but you’ll forgive me for being especially fond of a novel whose subject is a quirky book-seller and in which each chapter begins with a review of a real book. Oh, and the story is wonderful as well.

Bookstore owner A.J. Fikry has achieved curmudgeon status before reaching the age of 40, mostly isolating himself from new people after the sudden and tragic death of his wife, Nic. Then, his world is upended with the arrival of baby Maya, who is left in his store with a note from Maya’s mother begging him to raise her child in a world surrounded by books. Slowly, Maya grows on him, and as his love expands, so does his ability and desire to connect with others. Forged together, A.J. and Maya’s circle of love begins to influence and change lives for the better, demonstrating that a life can be re-made, that lost love does not equal lost life. This is a heartwarming, fun, and charming read, here is one of my favorite quotes:

We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And I think these really do live on.

The emotion here is palpable, and attention to the power of love combined with the book’s sense of fun and whimsy are what makes it a great read. It is as if someone took The Rosie Project and A Man called Ove, smashed them together, and set it in a book-store. The perfect read for any book-lover or someone looking for an endearing, lovely, and moving story.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Published: April 1, 2014

I read this as: a library book

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry   by Rachel Joyce

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

EleanorOliphant
Cover image provided with permission from Penguin Random House Canada

From the outside Eleanor appears to be okay, maybe even completely fine. Sure, she is socially awkward, has no verbal filter, is unable to be anything but completely literal, and her closest friend is a plant, but none of this seems to really bother Eleanor, as she puts it:

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

Once we start digging through the layers of Eleanor, we begin to see that she is far from fine. However, as the shroud of her heartbreaking past and the mystery around it begins to fall, Eleanor learns about herself and develops meaningful relationships. She meets Raymond, her office IT guy, and through her friendship with him she saves Sammy, an older man who falls in the street. Even though Raymond and Sammy are a little confused by Eleanor initially, they see the kindness in her and open their friendship and families to her, giving Eleanor a chance to experience loving relationships, perhaps for the first time.

This book is about trauma, but even with everything stacked against her, Eleanor is a true heroine; she is brave, kind, someone you simply cannot stop rooting for. Despite the sad parts, Eleanor is unwittingly hilarious, I loved the depictions of her experiencing something for the first time, such as dancing in public:

“I found myself not thinking about anything, sort of like how the vodka worked, but different, because I was with people and I was singing. YMCA! YMCA! Arms in the air, mimicking the letters – what a marvelous idea! Who knew dancing could be so logical?

During the next free-form jigging section, I started to wonder why the band was singing about, presumably, the Young Men’s Christian Association, but then, from my very limited exposure to popular music, people did seem to sing about umbrellas and fire-starting and Emily Brontë novels, so, I supposed, why not a gender and faith-based youth organization?”

I DIED.

This novel was so endearing, funny, and sweet, I loved it from start to finish. Learning about Eleanor opens us up to understanding people who are different, even if they are off-putting and strange, and in this way the book reminded me a lot of A Man Called Ove. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys quirky and like-able characters, character-driven story-lines, or someone who enjoys cheering for the under-dog.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Published: May 9, 2017

I read this as: A library book

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