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2021 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (4)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut (1)
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho
- Illinois (4)
- Indiana
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine
- Maryland (1)
- Massachusetts (1)
- Michigan (1)
- Minnesota (1)
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (1)
- New Hampshire (1)
- New Jersey (1)
- New Mexico
- New York (4)
- North Carolina (1)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (6)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee
- Texas (1)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (3)
- Washington (3)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming (1)
- *Washington, D.C.

International:
Australia (2)
Canada (3)
England (6)
France (1)
Ireland (1)
Switzerland (1)
The Philippines (1)
Wales (1)

My Progress:


28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2021 Fall Into Reading Challenge

My Progress:


0 / 24 books. 0% done!

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
(Hosted by Yours Truly!)

My Progress:


6 / 25 books. 24% done!

2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge

My Progress:


33 / 50 books. 66% done!

Booklist Queen's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:


35 / 52 books. 67% done!

2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

The 52 Club's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:


39 / 52 books. 75% done!
Monday, July 07, 2014

Charming Book About Books Makes Me Gush—With Reservations

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In the nearly two years since his pregnant wife died in a car crash, grief has dragged 39-year-old A.J. Fikry down into a black pit of despair.  He has little hope of escaping it and no real reason to try.  A.J.'s business—a small bookstore—slides closer to bankruptcy every day; he has few close friends; and even the great literature that used to keep him company seems to be losing its appeal.  The curmudgeonly bookstore owner feels lost in a world that used to make sense.

As if A.J.'s life is not miserable enough, his most prized possession, a valuable antique book, disappears from its climate-controlled display case.  In its place, he receives a delivery.  And not of the bookish variety.  The two events, especially the latter, shake his world to its very core.  As he learns to cope with these unexpected changes in his life, A.J. feels—for the first time since his wife's death—not just a purpose in living, but an enthusiasm for it.  As he re-learns to embrace the world beyond the covers of his books, A.J. discovers the surprising joy of community, caring, and sharing his passion for great literature with other people (even if their definition of "great" differs quite a bit from his).  

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, a charming adult novel by Gabrielle Zevin, is a difficult tale to describe.  Plotwise, it's not much to sneeze at—it's the narration that makes this story such a delight.  Fikry has a way of seeing things that is at once unique and familiar, especially to book lovers.  I couldn't help but snicker at passages like these:
A.J. has never changed a diaper in his life, though he is a modestly skilled gift wrapper ... he figures diaper changing and gift-wrapping must be related proficiencies ... The whole thing takes about twenty minutes.  Babies move more than books and aren't as conveniently shaped (50).  
If Jenny were a book, she would be a paperback just out of the box—no dog ears, no waterlogging, no creases in her spine.  A.J. would prefer a social worker with some obvious wear.  He imagines the synopsis on the back of the Jenny story:  when plucky Jenny from Fairfield, Connecticut, took a job as a social worker in the big city, she had no idea what she was getting into (64-65).
How can you not love a voice as rich and droll as this one?  It captivated me.  Fikry's story, though not all that original, is also compelling.  As are those of the other characters.  In fact, the only thing that kept me from not outright adoring The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was its R-rated elements (F-bombs, sexual content, etc.), which seemed out of place in a tale that otherwise brims with an old-fashioned, classic type of charm.  If it weren't for these "aberrations," I would be gushing about this book right and left, pushing it on every bibliophile I know.  As is, I can only recommend it with reservations.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry has such appeal, I just wish Zevin had stripped out all the "mature" elements and kept it clean enough for book lovers of all ages to enjoy this homage to reading—and to life.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


 If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, sexual content, and references to illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.  

Mormon Mentions: Gabrielle Zevin

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture. 

****

On the very last page of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Gabrielle Zevin describes a sales rep named Jacob Gardner like this:  "He even walks like he has a calling.  He could be mistaken for a missionary.  In point of fact, he was raised Mormon, but this is another story" (258). 

- If there's one thing we Mormons are known for throughout the world, it's our missionary program.  While many senior couples and older single women serve missions for the LDS church, the majority of its proselyting force are men and women between the ages of 18 and 21.  Despite the fact that these young people are spending 18 to 24 months away from their families, friends, educations, careers, etc., they are well-known for their enthusiasm and zeal.  LDS missionaries love teaching and testifying of Christ through both their words and their deeds.   That kind of passion gets noticed, hence Zevin's description of Jacob Gardner's zest for literature being missionary-like in its fervor.  

To learn more about missionary work—including why members of the LDS church serve missions, what they teach, and what day-to-day missionary life is like—please visit LDS.org.   

(Book image is from Barnes & Noble; missionary photos are from the LDS Media Library)
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<i>Reading</i>
The Gold in These Hills by Joanne Bischof

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<i>Listening</i>
Glass Houses by Louise Penny



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