A bookshop’s magic

collected works of aj fikry

Review: Vivien Horler (2014)

The Collected works of AJ Fikry (Little, Brown)*

This is one of those books you put down with a regretful “aaah”.

AJ Fikry runs Island Books on a Massachusetts island, and has stuck up a sign over the door that reads: “No man is an island; every book is a world.”

But in fact AJ has become something of an island; ever since his pregnant wife Nic died in a car crash he has lost his zest for life. Surly to his customers, he spends his evenings drinking himself to sleep. Nothing matters.

He does have one treasure though: a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane. Copies sell for around $400 000, and his plan is to auction it off in a couple of years, close the bookshop and retire.

One morning a hungover AJ wakes up to find the Tamerlane missing from its climate-controlled box. He reports it to the police, but the investigation runs into a dead end. He knows his pension is gone.

He tries to get his life back on track and starts running, deciding that since he now has nothing worth stealing, he won’t lock the shop. And one evening he comes home to find a toddler has been abandoned in the children’s section, with a note from the mother. She says she can no longer look after the little girl, and she wants her to grow up to be a reader, among books, and “among people who care about those kinds of things”.

And so AJ, to his astonishment and after a few bureaucratic hurdles, becomes a dad and is, partly through baby Maya, absorbed into the life of the community.

There is more – he falls for a publisher’s rep. Books have brought love back into AJ’s life.

But of course there are things that can tilt a life off course, even a life built on books and love.

This is a book for readers, full of allusions and references. It’s also utterly charming, lightly written, and a thoroughly recommended read. – VIVIEN HORLER, Weekend Argus on Sunday, June 15, 2014


(Also published as The Storified Life of A J Fikry)

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