Zevin (Margarettown, 2006, etc.) chronicles the life of A. J. Fikry, a man who holds no brief for random acts, who yearns for a distinct narrative, who flounders about until his life is reordered by happenstance.
Fikry owns Island Books on Alice Island, a summer destination off Massachusetts—think Nantucket. He’s not yet 40 but already widowed, his wife, Nic, dead in an auto accident. Fikry drinks. Island Books drifts toward bankruptcy. Then, within a span of days, his rare copy of Poe’s Tamerlane (worth $400,000) is stolen, and 2-year-old Maya is deposited at his bookstore. Fikry cannot bear to leave the precocious child to the system once it becomes apparent her single mother has drowned herself in the sea. He adopts Maya, spurred by her immediate attachment to him. That decision detours "his plan to drink himself to death" and reinvigorates his life and his bookstore. Add Amelia Loman, quirky traveling sales representative for Knightley Press, and a romance that takes four years to begin, and there’s a Nicholas Sparks quality to this novel about people who love books but can't find someone to love. With a wry appreciation for the travails of bookstore owners—A. J. doesn’t like e-readers—Zevin writes characters of a type, certainly, but ones who nonetheless inspire empathy. Among others, there are the bright and sweet-natured Maya, who morphs into an insecure but still precocious teenager; Lambiase, local police chief who finds in Firky the friend who expands his life; A. J’s brother-in-law, Daniel Parish, a once–best-selling author riding out a descending career arc; and Daniel’s wife, Ismay, who sees A. J. as everything Daniel should be. All fit the milieu perfectly in a plot that spins out as expected, bookended by tragedy. Zevin writes characters who grow and prosper, mainly A. J. and Lambiase, in a narrative that is sometimes sentimental, sometimes funny, sometimes true to life and always entertaining.
A likable literary love story about selling books and finding love.