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Monday, March 20, 2023

Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

 Of course I went on a Gabrielle Zevin binge, despite not really liking Young Jane Young. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds me a lot of A Man Called Ove. You've got a single man, an ornery widowed owner of a bookstore on a fictional island on the East Coast of Massachusetts, mean to everyone (even the cute publisher sales rep who visits a couple of times a year to go over his selection of books to stock), and one day an abandoned child mysteriously appears in his bookstore overnight with a mournful note attached. The mother appears washed up dead on shore a couple of days later, but Fikry decides for some unknown reason to adopt the child and raise her (Maya) as his own.

Of course, the child changes him from being an unlikeable person to becoming the life of the town. He finds love, and the rest of the plot unfolds --- we get answers as to why Maya's mother killed herself. There's a tear-jerker ending that feels like it was written for a made-for-tv movie --- the plot is that predictable. Even the romance seems both unlikely and moves characters together for the sake of the kind of story the author wants to tell.

Having said that, it's the little touches in this book that make it different from other made for tv movie plot books --- Fikry writes little cards on books that explain why he recommends a certain book, and those feel authentic.

I'll admit this: no way would I have read this book or continued past the first few pages if not for how good Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow was. It in no way can hold a candle up to those books. The prose is transparent and easy to read, but I can see why the folks who made the movie out of the book did put their heart into it (Rotten Tomatoes of 38%). When I started this review I had put a recommended label on it but by the time I finished I had to take it out.

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