The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey by Gabrielle Zevin is a cute but somewhat sappy little book, with a little melodrama thrown in. A.J. Fikrey is a touchy and argumentative bookstore owner on a small, touristy island town and recent widower. He walks in his store one day to find that a baby has been abandoned there for him to find, and from there, his life begins to change.
On the book cover and in the description it notes misleadingly, I might add, that “a small package” arrives, instead of saying it’s a “baby” — I assume this was a marketing decision. Honestly, if I’d known it was a story about a single dad raising a kid, I wouldn’t have read it. It’s not my thing. I don’t have a particular interest in stories about single dads, and I know I don’t want to read stories about babies. So, the book got off on shaky grounds with me. I should be clear that even though it’s about a bookstore owner and obviously being marketed as a book for people who like books, this is not a “thinker’s” book.
That said, it’s a cute, safe story. The writing is nothing special; a little stilted at times maybe, but not a big deal and almost not worth mentioning. I think the story in general was a little too saccharine for my tastes. The ending is uninspired, but predictably positive. Tone-wise, it reminds me of that time I read a Mitch Albom novel. The book’s saving grace is probably the cast of characters which are actually well-drawn and interesting.
I think I probably dove in to this one with overly-elevated expectations, which were very quickly lowered, so maybe that’s why I found myself being disappointed. There are many, many literary references, but they’re sort of just stuck in there randomly. The book is not clever. If you don’t mind a little sappiness and like books where titles of other books are dropped in, then you might like this. It wasn’t for me, but in a non-offensive way. It’s short and the cover art is nice, though. If it sounds like I am actively searching for nice things to say, that is because I am.
There’s a line that includes some dialogue one of the characters says that seems to come straight from the author’s mouth: “‘I love you,’ she says with a resigned shrug. ‘I want to leave you with something cleverer than that, but it’s all I know.'”