I dove into my pile of library books and read The Storied Life of AJ Fikry. To those of you that said I would love it? That it was a charming little story?
You were totally right!
This tiny little book packs a big punch and I loved every minute I got to spend with it.
Amelia is heading to the tiny island town of Alice to sell the owner of Island Books titles off Knightley Press’s winter list. She’s confident that she can talk him into buying some titles because tricky customers are her specialty. But when she meets him, he is unforgivably rude and buys nothing.
Unbeknownst to Amelia, AJ Fikry is grieving over the fairly recent death of his wife. He lives above the book shop, drinking himself into oblivion nearly every night, subsisting on frozen meals and just not caring about anything anymore. One morning when he’s gone out for a run to try and kickstart his health again he comes back to the store to see that someone has left him something: a little girl.
And so begins the story of AJ and his adopted daughter Maya. Maya is incredibly clever for her age (at the start of the book she’s just over 2) and thrives under the care of AJ who, knowing nothing about children, treats her like a small adult. I loved this about the book by the way. He used to hate stocking children’s books but when he gets tired of reading the same book to Maya, he decides to branch out and when he’s reading her a story about a pea that has to eat his vegetables in order to get dessert, he matter-of-factly explains to Maya that this is irony. A-dorable.
This is the kind of sad book that I love. One that’s completely honest about the ups and downs of life: AJ has to come to terms with the death of his wife, learn to put himself back out there; his sister-in-law has to realize for herself that her marriage may be over. When Maya is small the entire community comes by the bookstore to help him out, building a support network around them both that AJ didn’t know he wanted or needed.
Throughout the story are AJ’s notes to his daughter about the books that he’s loved, ones that he thinks she will love, that she should read and understand to help make her a better writer. It’s a love letter to books and reading, an affirmation that reading a good book and loving fiercely are among the best things in this world. Although the ending is sad, it’s also a beginning for the characters left standing, an ode to the resilience of human nature and the enduring power of the written word.
I loved this book and although I’m sad to return it to the library, I’m excited that this little book will have the chance to light up someone else’s world for a couple of days.