A charming ode to books and the local bookstore
Widower A.J. Fikry owns the only bookstore on remote Alice Island, a summer tourist destination off the coast of Massachusetts. Part curmudgeon, part literary connoisseur, and short story aficionado, Fikry isolated himself from the world since his wife’s death. He has no patience with customers and only stocks books he wants to sell, not what the public wants. Enter a new publisher’s rep, the rather quirky Amelia Loman, who specializes in persnickety bookstore owners. A.J. is characteristically curt and rude to her but she triggers something in A.J.
Those feelings immediately take a back seat when a little girl just over 2 years old is left in the bookstore with a note pinned to her Elmo doll. The note merely says “To the Owner of This Bookstore” and begs that Maya “grow up in a place with books and among people who care about those kinds of things.” When the body of Maya’s mother washes up on the island a few days later, A.J. decides to adopt the very smart little girl. Not only is there room in his heart for Maya but soon his deep-rooted feelings for Amelia rise to the surface.
Our highly skilled facilitator Ann Schooley took 10 quotes—all very evocative of the flavor of the story—and distributed them. The noise level reached a crescendo as the groups tried to identify the speaker. As each passage was attributed to one of the characters, an examination ensued of their strengths and weaknesses. It proved to be the perfect discussion vehicle to involve all the members.
While most of the discussion centered on the idiosyncrasies and attributes of A.J., many in the group commented on the character of Chief Lambiase, head of the local police force. They delighted in his development as a reader, wanted to be a member of his book club, and admired his steadfast friendship with A.J. and Maya. They also were smitten by Amelia’s character and her insights into book publishing.
Don’t dismiss this book as just a sweet love story. Woven into the fabric of the novel is a bit of mystery and suspense, as well as scores of literary references and a discussion on the fate of bookstores with the advent of e-readers. Each chapter begins with a review A.J. has penned for Maya about one of his favorite short stories. Some felt this was too much of a gimmick but others delighted in the reviews and planned to read all the stories mentioned.
Without question this book was a big hit among the members and they felt anyone who loves reading, books, and bookstores would relish this novel.
About the Author
Born in New York in 1977, Gabrielle Zevin is the daughter of an American father of Russian-Jewish ancestry and a Korean mother. Zevin began her writing career at age 14 as a music critic for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. She received degrees in English and American literature from Harvard University in 2000. In addition to eight best-selling novels for both adults and young adults, she is an award-winning screenwriter. A lover of bookstores, she feels we are at a moment in time when we are making a lot of valuable decisions about print versus digital and buying locally versus online. Zevin lives in Los Angeles.