You can see the writing on the wall. Books are a dying relic of centuries past. Things change. Newspapers are hanging on against all logic - today we fire up our tablets and Kindles and do the modern thing.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a small book, or at least I read it fast, I don't know, because I read it on my Kindle. It is the engrossing tale of a man, Mr. Fikry of the title, who owns Island Books, a quaint store on a fictional east coast island. The plot is quiet but compelling, and points to a reformation of a grumpy, narrowly myopic man, to something more. That's usually worth a good read right there - in the tradition of Scrooge and many others, those life events that transform and make us grow.
I am fully aware that in this next statement I will open myself to eye-rolling disdain from some readers. But here goes, anyway: female authors write differently than male counterparts. They bring an added element of emotion, or insight. Sometimes that can slow things, sometimes it helps a story. It's why a woman couldn't write the Guns of Navarone but could pen The Guns of August. I haven't fully fleshed this opinion out, and probably won't but there it is. In Fikry, I think the woman's perspective and characters are richer for having come from the mind of Zevin.
Maybe its not what we do in life, but what we leave behind that creates our eternal image. I don't know, but what Mr. Fikry leaves behind is very much worth the title of greatness. But then again, its not all that special, its very much what makes all of us human. From Maya, to Police Chief Lambiase, to Amelie, all are part of a rich world within a bookstore where knowledge, reading and involvement in the printed page is no only a daily ritual but an exercise in magic.
The novel is a kind of throwback to a TCM movie of the 40's when people actually spent time in bookstores. I read it on my Kindle and haven't bought a real book with paper in years. I don't have the love of the smell of a new book, or the tensile sensation of paper on fingers that is the hallmark of a true book lover. To me, book are cumbersome, and usually fill boxes that will never be emptied. To me the soul of a book resides not in the spine, but in the words.
In The Storied Life of A.J. Fiery there is sadness, mystery, happiness, death and oh so much life. I liked it a great deal.