Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry

Summary: A.J. Fikry owns a failing bookshop. His wife has just died, in tragic circumstances. His rare and valuable first edition has been stolen. His life is a wreck.

Amelia is a book rep, with a big heart, and a lonely life.

Maya is the baby left on A.J.'s bookshop floor with a note.

What happens in the bookshop that changes the lives of these seemingly normal but extraordinary characters?

This is the story of how unexpected love can rescue you and bring you back to real life, in a world that you won't want to leave, with characters that you will come to love. -- Little Brown UK

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin came to me by way of Little Brown UK, but I can certainly say that it was well worth the wait. This book brings to mind words like sweet, charming, delightful, and quirky; and I mean those things in the best way possible. I absolutely adored this novel, and it's sure to be one of my favorites from 2014!

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF A.J. FIKRY tells the story of A.J. Fikry, a man who has recently lost his wife and runs a struggling bookshop on Alice Island. He has pretty much lost hope for finding happiness and pulled away from his family and friends. The one thing he is clinging to is his first edition collection of Poe poems that's worth a great deal. However in keeping with Fikry's bad luck, it ends up getting stolen one day when Fikry is passed out from too much drink. Needless to say, Fikry becomes even more depressed and withdraws even further.

And then... Amelia enters the scene. Amelia is a book rep who occasionally visits Fikry's bookstore on the island. Despite Fikry's nasty behavior towards her, she continues to keep in touch with him and discuss her favorite books. Amelia is a bit quirky (and already engaged), but Fikry gradually finds himself thinking about her.

However, it's the arrival of another special person at the bookstore that really causes Fikry's life to turn upside down. This surprise allows Fikry a second chance at finding true happiness and realizing the important things in life!

I loved THE COLLECTED WORKS OF A.J. FIKRY so much that I hardly know where the start. (Plus, there's the fact that I think this book is best experienced without knowing too much about the story!) I loved the eccentric cast of characters and the writing was special too! However, I think it was how I felt while reading (and even after I finished) this novel that will make it one of the best books I've read in some time!

This novel had a little bit of something for everyone and all it came together to make for a very entertaining read. The novel had some very quirky characters and a lot of humor, but there was also a bit of a mystery and even a little romance. I was actually surprised by how "readable" this book was -- I think I read it in two sittings; and I was delighted by how it paid homage to books and booksellers.

It is rare that I find a book that makes me feel as much as this one did. I laughed and I cried, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that I fell in love with Fikry and the other characters in this book. But it was the messages of hope, love, sacrifice, and redemption that really resonated with me. I have to give major kudos to Ms. Zevin for writing about this topics in a way that really made me think and feel. This book could have been corny and saccharine, but it wasn't. Everything just worked!

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF A.J. FIKRY would make an excellent book club selection. I was able to find a reading guide with fifteen questions that will help stimulate your discussion. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include family dynamics, hope, grief, guilt, sacrifice, second chances, redemption, and love. You also might want to discuss the setting of the story as well as the way the characters change throughout the story.

Overall, THE COLLECTED WORKS OF A.J. FIKRY was a wonderful novel! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

3 comments:

bermudaonion said...

My sister reviewed this book for me. She loved it too! I need to find out what she's done with her copy of it.

Patty Magyar said...

I loved this book, too! It was just so unique!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I haven't heard a single bad thing about this book. Everyone loves it, everyone cries when they read it, so I am totally missing out. I'm going to get my hands on the audio at some point.