Pick of the Week: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Cantankerous bookstore owner A.J. Fikry has lost his wife and has alienated most of the townspeople on the small island where he lives and works. Yet one day a two-year-old girl is abandoned in his store with a note saying, “I want her to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about those kinds of things.” When her mother turns up deceased and since the father is unknown, it’s up to A.J. to care for little Maya. And suddenly – against his better judgment – he finds himself becoming an adoptive father, and he considers it his mission to make her into a smart, discerning reader. “He wants Maya to read literary picture books if such a thing exists. And preferably modern ones. And preferably, preferably feminist ones. Nothing with princesses.” Slowly, fatherhood changes A.J., and he finds himself reconnecting with the world again.
This might sound like a clichéd plot, but it’s not. A.J.’s unique personality, his love of good fiction, and the quirky cast of supporting characters make this into a book that is an absolute joy to read. Funny, wry, heartbreaking and hopeful, it’s a love letter to books and bookstores, and it’s also a story about how simple human connections can make all the difference in a life.