By Rachael Smith
What if your own life was reflected into a storybook? That is exactly how the life of A.J. Fikry is depicted in Gabrielle Zevin’s novel, which was published in paperback for $9.59 in December of 2014. Once you pick up The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, you’ll never want to reach the end of the novel.
The dramatic novel tells the story of an Ebenezer Scrooge-type of character, a bookseller of Alice Island Books named A.J. Fikry. One night, A.J.’s life is changed forever when his prized possession is stolen from his house and a young mother leaves her two-year-old daughter Maya in his care. Author Gabrielle Zevin creates a smart story structure to show readers a change in character in contrast to how they see him at the beginning. Readers are bound to find other surprises in the plot as they continue the novel. Readers will feel their time had been well-spent when they reach the ending, but will also want more. Zevin does a magnificent job with compelling curious readers into her newest work of fiction.
Aside from her smart story structure, Zevin shows a lot of creativity throughout the entire novel by her descriptive writing. The author includes descriptions in the novel that make readers envy her writing skills. One example of this takes place when she describes how much A.J. misses his newly deceased wife Nic. The passage reads, “God, he misses Nic. Her voice and her neck and even her armpits. They had been stubbly as a cat’s tongue and, at the end of the day, smelled like milk just before it curdles.” (Zevin 17) The descriptions Zevin uses for the physical features of Nic that A.J. remembers are so brilliant it makes readers wonder how she chooses her words.
Zevin also has a clever way of using allusions in her novel. She begins the chapters by giving them the title of works by famous writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Roald Dahl, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many others. Below the chapter titles, Zevin provides the inner thoughts of A.J. to give readers a closer insight on his personality. The titles are also allusions to what comes next in the story. An example of this is the chapter named after Fitzgerald’s short story, “The Diamond as Big as the Rits”, where there’s only one particular diamond that can be found by the main character. Readers can compare it to A.J.’s item that gets stolen, a collection of rare Edgar Allen Poe poems. In addition to the chapter titles, the author makes references to literary works throughout the entire novel. For instance, in a flashback scene, A.J. reacts to his wife’s sudden death by saying, “What a goddamn Danielle Steel move Nic! If this were a novel, I’d stop reading right now.” (Zevin 19) Zevin’s references to literary works show A.J.’s taste in literature at the novel’s beginning and how he becomes willing to explore other works as it continues. In fact, the tagline line for A.J.’s bookstore is, “No Man is an Island; Every Book is a World”. (Zevin 10) Readers can appreciate the clever line Zevin makes up to support her novel’s literary allusions.
Gabrielle Zevin’s newest novel is for anyone wanting a new book to read. Zevin’s descriptive words, story structure and literary allusions make her novel a success. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will mesmerize readers from the beginning to the end.