Don’t Judge a Bookseller by the Bookshop

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



Overall Rating: 5


Quick Summary: A.J. Fikry is a peculiar man who isn’t quite happy with his life. He follows the same routine every day and while he loves his bookshop, it won’t be long before he has to close it due to failing sales. When his prize possession of Poe poems is stolen, he thinks all is lost. But A.J. is quickly learning that life can turn on a dime and when an unexpected gift is left on his door his priorities are transformed.

This is a love story, even though it’s firmly marketed in the fiction category. A.J. is such an odd character and I love, love, LOVE odd characters. He is crusty, grumpy, and inaccessible. But when the hidden parts of his life are revealed as the story progresses, he transforms into the most sympathetic of characters. Because A.J. is such a strong character, the love that develops is so subtle and so sweet. Gabrielle Zevin’s style of writing is to demonstrate with actions, rather than reveal with dialogue or first person narration.

This story also has a lot of layers and subplots within the storyline. In order to do that effectively, Zevin has to fully develop her secondary characters and I think she does so admirably. There is a community that surrounds A.J. and it comes to life in a very realistic way. This novel is really the life of A.J. Finkry because it goes beyond the initial conflict of the plot line to encompass the “ever after” of the happily ever after.

The different types of love and loss make this story stand out in my memory. It made me laugh and cry and worry and that’s the effect a great novel and writer. I cannot emphasize enough that this is a novel of subtly, a novel of flawed characters, and a novel of not judging a book by its cover.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle $8.48)

I would probably buy this in paperback if I didn’t have Kindle Unlimited. Since it’s a KU book I read it on a whim, but now wish I had bought it to have on hand. It’s a book I will be recommending to a lot of people and I’d like to have a copy to lend.

Something else you might enjoy:

The Memory of Running is not exactly in the same vein of A.J. Finkry, but there is something about its effort at dealing with loss that might interest you. Another flawed character and story that engrosses you, but the writing style is very different so be prepared.

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