About the book (from the publisher): A .J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worse sales in history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over – and see everything anew.
My review: Who can resist a book about a bookstore, books and reading? And really, that part of the book is delightful. Fikry’s musings on favorite short stories, the delight when reading groups spring up and more and more customers discover the love of reading, the peek into the publishing industry, where Amelia, a sales representative, works – all of it is charming and of interest to those of us who love books.
Fikry, written as more than a bit stuck in his ways, slightly irascible, and in a rut at the beginning of the novel, needs to undergo a transformation. And that transformation is facilitated by the arrival of a little child in the bookstore, with note attached from a mother who, we find out, has ended her life. Fikry finds himself enchanted by the child and from there, we watch him transform. Redemption is always a powerful theme and it runs throughout this book.
The bookstore is on a little island off Cape Cod and the town is populated by eccentric and endearing characters – all with their own story, their own cares and worries. Zevin has done a wonderful job of painting the picture of Alice Island and its inhabitants.
My problem with the book is that it moves quickly – indeed, I read it very quickly – and never goes much deeper than the surface. I found myself wanting more and then suddenly the next chapter would be years later and I would shake my head and think, “What?” Some plot points were confusing to me, as if the editor or the author didn’t catch a discrepancy or two.
It’s an easy read. Some will love that. Others, like me, will find it lacking in the end. I liken it to a meal that looks like it will fill you up rather nicely, but in the end, leaves you hungry.
If you’re looking for a light read, what we’d call a ‘beach read,’ then this will be a good choice for you.
If you’re looking for something meatier, then this is probably not for you.
I liked it. But just that. In the end, it was disappointing.
About the author: Gabrielle Zevin is the author of eight novels, including Elsewhere and most recently, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, which is a New York Times bestseller.
I purchased this book for myself.