by Gabrielle Zevin
A.J. Fikry is trying to drink himself to death – or at least drink himself comfortably numb. His beloved wife died in a car accident not too long ago, and the bookstore they opened together in a small east coast island town is failing. When things seem like they can’t possibly get any worse, an extremely rare and valuable collection of poems by Edgar Allen Poe that served as A.J.’s nest egg is stolen.
Soon after, A.J. makes a strange and wholly unexpected discovery: a baby has been left in his bookstore. Accompanying the two-year-old girl, Maya, is a diaper bag and a note from her mother imploring A.J. to care for her, as she is unable to care for the babe any longer. A.J. knows nothing about babies, nor is he particularly fond of babies or children, or even people for that matter (he’s kind of an asshole, but we forgive him because who wouldn’t be an asshole having been through what he’s been through?). A search for the child’s mother is undertaken, but it’s short-lived, as she is soon found dead of an apparent suicide. When it is time to turn Maya over to the authorities so that she can enter the foster system, A.J. can’t bring himself to turn her loose; he has quickly become attached and feels responsible for the girl.
As you would imagine, A.J.’s life begins to turn around when Maya enters his life, and what ensues is the sweet evolution of a deep father-daughter bond. A.J. also pursues Amy, a sales rep for a small publishing company who once arrived at the bookstore, before Maya’s appearance, to pitch the winter book releases to him and was insulted and driven out by a rude and curmudgeonly A.J. in short order.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a very enjoyable book about loss, starting over, and the love of books. I think it tries to be profound at times but doesn’t quite get there, but all in all a good read.