The last time I picked a book to read because the title and main character had a connection to books, I was disappointed. The books turned out to be little more than props used to tell a story, with little attention given to the stories in the books themselves.
This time I was not disappointed. Books and the stories they contain are integral to The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Each chapter is even prefaced by some notes by Fikry (the owner of a bookstore) about some short story that has parallels of some sort to the real-life events in his life.
Yet the real story is not about books but about people, with all their greatness and meanness and hopes and disappointments. Some of them have particular connections with books (besides the bookstore owner, there is a publisher’s rep, a writer, and the leader of a book club that meets in the store). But others are connected to these by the usual ties of love, family, business, or friendship.
I don’t know if I’ll read any of the short stories referenced by Fikry. Unlike him, I’ve never cared for short stories as well as novels. Some are very good, but you just can’t lose yourself in a short story the way you can in a novel. All too soon, it’s over, just when you were getting really interested in the people and their lives.
I also can’t say the book will make me appreciate books more, because – as readers of this blog know – I have always loved books and my favorite pastime is reading. But as a book-lover it’s great to read a book where reading is portrayed so positively.
But it is a heart-warming story, which is the sort of book I was looking for when I found it.