n the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island–from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming.
This book was enjoyable and fun and easy to read. I found the characters different enough to be interesting and they were all relateable in some way, even the characters I disliked. A.J annoyed me at first but he grew on me, right around the time he was thinking that he had been a massive jerk to Amelia at the start of the book. I liked how his date pointed out that he was a book snob (because he really was) because that made it feel like his opinions were more character driven than author driven, so he wasn’t being used as a mouthpiece for the author to talk about their own opinions of the books.
I really liked how the characters’ stories all fit together in the end, with the book and Maya’s mother are the two examples I’m thinking of. It’s not normally that neat in real life but in my fiction I like all the ends to be tied up.
The book shop sounds lovely with the book clubs and the books available. I’m a little biased towards liking the setting in the first place but I think the book shop gave a cosy feel. And I enjoyed how Maya opened A.J up the town. Maya was a bit of a precocious toddler, the one you always see in movies and books as the perfect, chatty child, but it was bearable and she was very likeable as well.
The twist was a little unexpected but the way it was tied in with the book reviews from A.J to Maya all the way through made it all the more sad but a quiet way to end the book. I do wish that there had been a scene where A.J apologised to his mother for his reaction to the e-reader especially when he used it in the hospital because I felt a little niggling doubt at the back of my head that A.J had died with his mother still remembering the anger at her Christmas present. I’m not entirely sure why, but I really wish that scene had been in there.
The time skips were a little disjointed, sometimes I think the book skipped too much time in between time skips and they weren’t quite as flowing and put together as they could have been.
In general, I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it. Four stars!