Book Talk: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Storied-Life-of-AJ-Fikry-Gabrielle-Zevin-IllustrationI just finished reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and I’m gobsmacked by a sense of unfairness. How could they up and leave me, these characters I followed for so many years? (It’s a sign of a good book when I put it down feeling heartbroken.)

A.J. Fikry is a widower, a snob, and a curmudgeon. But, most of all, he’s a bookseller and a reader. After his wife’s untimely death, he mans the bookstore he and his spouse opened on Alice Island, a (fictional) small town off the coast of Boston, alone. With a knack for recommending books and drinking himself to sleep, he’s the sort of protag you’d want at your local purveyor of literature but, perhaps, not the sort to whom you’d want to try selling a YA novel or befriend. When Fikry finds two-year-old Maya abandoned in his store with only a note from her mother and a knapsack, everything changes. This is where the story truly began for me. We follow his life and those of his intimate circle as he picks up the pieces. There’s intrigue surrounding Maya’s parentage, a love that takes years to arrive, a rare book robbery, and so so much more. This is a story for book lovers–I take unchecked pleasure in finding book mentions in fiction narratives and this one has it in spades.

I’ve found myself reading more diversely and am learning that I enjoy whimsical, heartfelt slice of life fiction more than I thought I would. I usually go in for the epic and fantastic, but intimate, insular tales of lives lived contemporaneously are giving me the feels lately. In the words of a favorite songstress, “them heavy people hit me in a soft spot.” Not to be misleading–this book has heart-wrenching moments dealing with fatherhood, loss, and relationships, but wry humor softens the blows and the sorrows are as sweet as they can be bitter.

I decided to read this book because it was in my Audible recommendations and the summary alluded to a bookish story, but otherwise I didn’t know what I was getting into. I’d just come off reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and while this book shares genre similarities, Fikry proved a good balance to Groff’s more drastic and painful tale of life and love.

In my movie version of Zevin’s novel, I cast Ben Kingsley as Fikry, Amandla Stenberg as Maya, and Charlize Theron as Amelia.

From the Wordeatery – The Rummy Affair of the Green Swizzle

jeeves and swizzler_web

I had been able to observe that there was a sprightly sportsman behind the counter mixing things out of bottles and stirring them up in long glasses that seemed to have ice in them, and the urge came upon me to see more of this man.

P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Bertie novels are the stuff to make a Los Angeles commute mildly bearable. I finished reading Carry on, Jeeves last week and Bertie mentioned a certain drink. Me being me, the audiobook was paused and an internet quest for the libation ensued. Thanks to this Esquire article, I was better able to . . . fully experience the literature, let’s say. A Green Swizzle saved our Wooster from an awkward social situation and a drink like that simply cannot be ignored.

Still, rum would be my last choice as far as spirits go, and sugared cocktails get cannon fire by law. I need a drink with snap, a razor-sharp thing to keep me aloft through ribald evenings and terrible choices. I need a gin gimlet more often than not. But anyway I tripped to BevMo for crème de menthe because who has that lying around and I made the thing because books.

All in all, not bad. The rum did get in the way. And I may have added seltzer (effervescence!) post-shoot. But I could picture earnest Bertie fagged by his attempts to help the chumps he calls friends, desperate for an herbal tincture — a few deep swigs from a tall, frosted glass — and I thought, Really, he should have taken Jeeves’ advice about that tie.