Monday, August 25, 2014

The Slow Burn of a Great Book


I began reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin after having seen it on Goodreads on a friends news feed.  I had a brief interaction with said friend where she told me verbatim "If you don't like this, I'll eat my hat."  I thought that was a rather unique way to tell me that I would love the book and had to read it.  So, I asked for it for my birthday and received it in due course.

I picked it up one day after work and read the first 40 or so pages.  I instantly fell in love with A.J. Fikry and his curmudgeonly ways.  How could you not?  He was a reader, bookstore owner, widower and overall lonely soul who was just going through the motions of his life.  And then, one day, everything changes for him.  His world spins out of control and he is set on a path that will change his life forever.  One that he initially fights against, but eventually gives into.  I decided on that first night that I would do my utmost to savor this story, a true rarity for someone like me who typically inhales my chosen books.  But AJ's story needed to be enjoyed like a bowl of rich creamy ice cream.  Slowly and holding each bite in your mouth until it melted away.  So I did just that.  Reading this 258 page book over the course of several weeks.  Allowing myself only a handful of chapters every few days.  The way I felt reading this brings to mind one of Bradbury's most famous (if not THE most famous) quotes
 "It was a pleasure to burn."
That is how I felt reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, it was a slow burn of pleasure from cover to cover.

There were so many moments about this pseudo memoir that I loved. The chapter openings, each highlighting a short story and how it connects to what will follow.  The supporting characters, every one of them adding a layer of depth and heart to the story that most authors wish they could reproduce.   The heartbreak.  The joy.  Even the tears I couldn't stop from crying.  Sentences so beautifully written that it felt like a gift to read it.  But, the highest compliment I can give to this gem of a book is that I forgot I was reading a book of fiction and felt like I was part of AJ's story.  As if, AJ really lived and I was experiencing the twists and turns of his life from inside the cozy confines of Island Books.  To borrow a line from the author:
“Every word the right one and exactly where it should be. That's basically the highest compliment I can give.”