As a bookseller, I’m always drawn to novels set in bookstores. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (picture book, sue me), and now I can add Gabrielle Zevin’s little gem, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
There’s a magic to book shops (large chains and indies) that can’t be found in clothing stores, even the most ecclectic music shop can’t replicate the feeling of walking into a bookstore. I love working at a bookstore and secret shopping in others, so I can’t resist reading books about books, and grinning as my own day-to-day thoughts tend to show up in print.
W-MT: There is a book I read about in the New York Times Book Review. It has a red cover, maybe?
A.J.: Yeah, that sounds familiar. [Translation: That is excessively vague. Author, title, description of the plot- these are more useful locators. That the cover might have been red and that it was in the New York Times Book Review helps me far less than you might think.] Anything else you remember about it? [Use your words.] (Page 44)
“Insert cover color here” and “I’m looking for a book” are the most inside-joked about jokes that booksellers have.
I will admit, I did not like Amelia at first. She seemed pushy and odd. I sided with A.J. who just wanted to be left alone to run his little book shop and not be bothered by anyone ever, particularly customers. Then, the arrival of Maya, along with Officer Lambiase, throw A.J.’s descent into depression off the rails and he finds himself actually having to live. And then Amelia came back and all I could think was,
yes! If he isn’t going to raise an adorable little girl with his new friend Lambiase, he has to be with Amelia! The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is charming and quick, I read it in about five hours. It made me laugh out loud, cry, and perfectly cast in the inevitable movie that will make me do the same.
Fucking love, he thinks.
What a bother. (Page 76)