Independent bookstore workers embrace Gabrielle Zevin's 'The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry'(Read article summary)
Independent bookstore owners and their employees are promoting Zevin's new work with particular gusto.
When the main character of a new novel is the owner of an independent bookstore, perhaps it‚Äôs no surprise that indie stores are embracing the book.
And many bookstore employees are expressing enthusiasm for Gabrielle Zevin‚Äôs new novel ‚ÄúThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,‚ÄĚ which was just released on April 1 but already seems to be everywhere in the indie book world. ‚ÄúFikry‚ÄĚ follows the title character, who is the owner of a bookstore called Island Books. A.J. is struggling personally after the death of his wife and the slow slide of sales at his store, but many members of the community on Alice Island, where his store is located, refuse to give up on him and the arrival of a strange package is about to change his life.
‚ÄúFikry‚ÄĚ debuted this week at number six on the IndieBound bestseller list and IndieBound chose the book as the number one pick for its April Indie Next list, with Daniel Goldin, a worker at Wisconsin‚Äôs Boswell Book Company, calling it ‚Äúa romantic comedy, a spiritual journey‚Ä¶ it‚Äôs a celebration of books and the people who read them, write them, and sell them.‚ÄĚ
Other reviews have been fairly good, with Washington Post writer Keith Donohue calling it ‚Äúan entertaining novel, modest in its scope, engaging and funny without being cloying or sentimental,‚ÄĚ though Donohue said that ‚Äúhere and there, one‚Äôs suspension of disbelief is tested.‚ÄĚ Meanwhile, Publishers Weekly wrote that ‚ÄúZevin is a deft writer, clever and witty, and her affection for the book business is obvious,‚ÄĚ though PW called one part of the plot ‚Äúsomewhat unbelievabl[e]‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúpredictabl[e].‚ÄĚ Kirkus Reviews found it to be ‚Äúa likable literary love story about selling books and finding love,‚ÄĚ though the critic noted that ‚ÄúZevin writes characters of a type, certainly, but ones who nonetheless inspire empathy.‚ÄĚ
However, indie bookstore workers were already loving the novel all the way back in January, when Michael Link, a worker at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, told industry newsletter Shelf Awareness that staff at both the Kentucky and Ohio locations of the store had read the book and loved it. ‚ÄúThe writing is top-notch and the story, set in a small bookstore, is wonderful,‚ÄĚ he said.
More recently, California‚Äôs Rakestraw Books decided to take a gamble on a recent rainy day and chose ‚ÄúFikry‚ÄĚ as the book they wanted to gamble on. After two days of slow sales, owner Michael Barnard told Shelf Awareness they really needed a good sales day on March 26, so were discouraged when it started raining that day. Rain usually meant slow days at the store. So staff came up with an idea: if customers who lived in one of a few towns nearby ordered ‚ÄúFikry,‚ÄĚ Rakestraw Books workers would deliver it to their home that day. Barnard said his staff had all read Zevin‚Äôs book and were all enthusiastic about it.
‚ÄúIt's the perfect rainy day read,‚ÄĚ he said of the book. ‚ÄúMaking the offer drew a lot of attention. And the response has been great, very validating and affirming. People have said they read the book and loved it, and that it was a fun promotion.‚ÄĚ
In Illinois, Anderson‚Äôs Bookshops staff liked the book enough to make it a focus of an April Fool‚Äôs Day joke ‚Äď workers transformed both locations in Downers Grove and Naperville into A.J.‚Äôs store, Island Books, for the day, complete with signs reading ‚ÄúNew owner!‚ÄĚ and a fake biography of the ‚Äúnew owner,‚ÄĚ A.J., on the store‚Äôs website. Their embrace of the novel isn‚Äôt over: throughout the month of April, customers can take a photo with a basket with a doll inside, representing the toddler A.J. finds in his store. Those who put the photo of themselves with the doll on social media could win a T-shirt and signed copy of the book from Anderson‚Äôs and head up the line when Zevin comes to the store at the end of April.