Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Finkry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of AJ Finkry

PUBLISHER: Alonquin Books
PAGES: 273
FORMAT: Paperback

In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books—and booksellers—that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

I remember when Zevin’s novel Elsewhere came out. I was somewhere in my gradeschool years, and Elsewhere was one of the hyped new releases that our librarian featured in a book talk. This was in 2007 – over 7 years ago – and I still find myself thinking about it from time to time. When her next book came out, I made sure to read it and enjoyed that one too, but I didn’t keep up with her releases after that.

Somehow, The Storied Life of A.J. Finkry popped up on my radar, and I was intrigued by all of the great reviews it has on goodreads. I also just wanted to see how my 7th grade self’s favorite author was doing. This was a book I kept putting into a shopping cart, then after surveying my other purchases, putting back on its shelf to buy another time. Well, when I was at BookPeople this weekend, I came across AJ Finkry because it was a featured title with a generous recommendation.

A mere two days later, without much time to focus on this book as I am reading several at the moment, I’ve read it cover to cover. It’s so refreshing to blow through a book like that every once in a while.

This is a book about a man’s life – it says so in the title, even. So, sometimes the plot is a little slow. Or boring. AJ Finkry has a pretty interesting life though, and the book switches perspectives to some of the people around him as well. At one point, the narrator is a 3 year old girl, and I have no idea how Zevin pulled that off! That narration was the most impressive aspect of Zevin’s writing in this book. Did this book exceed my expectations? No, no really – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.

Something really cool about AJ Finkry is that because it references and revolves around so many literary aspects, Zevin has created a page on her blog called “A Guide to the Books and Literary References in AJ Finkry” and it’s really quite cool.

This is a story about family, the incredible impact that books have on human lives, and learning to give life a second chance.

We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.

-AJ Finkry, p 249


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Gabrielle Zevin’s writing career began at 14 years old when an angry letter to her local newspaper about a Guns ‘n’ Roses concert resulted in a job as a music critic. Over several novels for adults and young people, she has written about female soldiers in Iraq, mafia princesses in a retro-future New York City, teenage girls in the afterlife, talking dogs, amnesiacs, and the difficulties of loving one person over many years. Her first novel, Elsewhere, has been translated into over 20 languages. She is also the screenwriter of the cult hit Conversations with Other Women.

Has anyone else read it?

And was I the only one who didn’t realize that AJ is black until over half-way through?

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Finkry by Gabrielle Zevin

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