Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Collected Works of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Within the first three pages of reading The Collected Works of AJ Fikry I knew I was going to love this book. For a reasonably short book at 243 pages, Gabrielle Zevin manages to squeeze years of life into her characters and she knows their personalities inside and out. This is a book really driven by its characters rather than its plot which makes reading it a delightful discovery of each characters story.

The first character we are introduced to is Amelia, a book rep who travels to Alice Island on a seasonal basis to sell her book list to AJ Fikry. AJ Fikry is a book store owner who never buys anything that Amelia suggests. He is both rude and a border-line alcoholic whose wife died in tragic circumstances and AJ is still mourning her death. Maya is the baby who is left in AJ Fikry's bookshop and whose mother is found in the icy waters of Alice Island a few weeks after abandoning her.

This is the type of novel that could have had no plot whatsoever and it would go unnoticed as just spending time in the presence of Amelia and AJ is enough keep me entertained. I assure you it does have a plot though as AJ soon finds there are people both new and familiar to him that work their way into his life and he soon discovers that he wants to keep them closer.

What struck me and made me love this novel was just how extraordinarily ordinary Gabrielle Zevin's characters are. Ordinary because their story is small, involving only a handful of people and the events that take place at Fikry's bookshop are neither earth shattering or action packed but extra-ordinary because it's so rare to read a book with characters whose lives are so real and stories so full.

Delve into The Collective Works of AJ Fikry because for a while at least, you will feel like you are part of their tiny world on Alice Island and by the time you close the final page you will have cried and laughed and already feel like you should start reading again.

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