*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, I provide your book club with a brief summary, food ideas, activity idea, and discussion questions in that order!
Are you a fan of indie bookstores? Do you love short story collections? How about novels about found families? If so, then Gabrielle Zevin’s hit, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, should be on your list.
The novel’s central character, A.J. Fikry, is an independent book store owner and widower living on remote Alice Island. When a young girl shows up in his bookstore with no family left to claim her, A.J.’s life takes an unexpected turn.
Rife with literary references, especially short story ties, the novel will delight readers who can’t resist a good book about books.
While the novel might seem a little jarring or disjointed at times to some readers, it wasn’t until the end that I realized that it read almost like a short story collection itself. (A technique I’m sure Zevin used on purpose.) And, once I saw that, I loved the novel even more.
For such a short novel, I found the characters were still complex and their actions believable and full of human complication.
Overall, I really loved this book and I’m glad I was finally able to find the time to read it. If your book club hasn’t had the chance to read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, I think you’d love this little book about books (and life).
I’ve provided book club questions and delicious food ideas for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, so if you are looking for book club ideas and more, keep reading!
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Here’s a brief summary of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry:
From the Publisher: “A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over–and see everything anew.”
For The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Activity Idea:
Have each member bring a copy of their favorite short story. Play one of the Christmas swap games and take whichever story you end up with home to read.
After reading, write a short note (your book club could provide note cards, if desired). Include what you loved in the short story you took home in your note and read it aloud at the next meeting. Return the short story to the original owner along with the note.
For The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Ideas:
For a fairly concise novel, there was plenty of food mentioned in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
Here are a few of the food ideas from the pages of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry:
- The Luck of Roaring Camp – Ismay brings A.J. food after Maya is found – a salad, a tofu lasagna, an apple crumble
- The Luck of Roaring Camp – Maya’s non-christening party – Food from Costco including big muffins, coconut shrimp, and a hunk of Stilton all served on Elmo plates
- A Good Man is Hard to Find – A.J. takes Amelia to Pequod’s – Queequeg cocktail (shrimp cocktail mixed with Bloody Mary) and they discuss their favorite food in novels (The Gulag Archipelago-Bread and soup and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe-Turkish Delight)
- A Good Man is Hard to Find – A.J. goes to Providence to see Amelia – She cooks him lasagna and garlic bread
- The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County – “Leon Friedman” comes to read his novel – tea and finger sandwiches and booze
- The Tell-Tale Heart – Lambiase and Ismay go to El Corazon – surf and turf and gin and tonics, then pancakes and fresh-squeezed orange juice
- Ironhead – Amelia accidentally burns the brisket after A.J.’s outburst – Christmas dinner of only sides and red wine
- A.J. also makes Maya grilled cheese sandwiches throughout the book
If you don’t see something on this list (hello Queequeg cocktail!), consider making a food from your favorite book! And, serve it all on Elmo plates in honor of Maya.
Whether you choose something from this list or try your own option, I hope these food ideas will get your creative juices flowing to host your book club for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry!
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- While reading the novel did you realize that the chapter titles are both short story titles and relate to the theme of each chapter? Review each title and the theme of the chapters. Did you miss anything?
- Even though The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a novel, the chapters read almost like interwoven and interconnected short stories. Did you notice this subtle difference in form? How do you think it added to the overall short story theme and how do you think it detracted from the work as a novel?
- The author, Gabrielle Zevin, says that A.J. Fikry is inspired by Silas Marner and Mr. Darcy, among others. Discuss how you can see these other characters and even some of their story plot points in A.J. Fikry’s life.
- After knowing Marian’s story, why do you think she left Maya at The Last Word? Why do you think Ismay tried to help her up to a point? How were Ismay and Marian similar?
- Discuss Maya’s fictional account of her mother’s last days versus what actually happened. How do you think Maya’s story is as close to the truth as Ismay’s? Have you ever tried not only seeing a story from someone else’s perspective, but also writing one? How do you think that is different?
- A.J. has an outburst when his mother gives him an e-reader and declares that it will single-handedly destroy literary culture. Amelia has a more balanced view. What are your feelings about e-readers and e-books. Do you like them? How do you think they are changing the literary world for good or ill?
- Were you surprised to find out what happened to Tamerlane? In the end, Tamerlane ended up saving A.J.’s life twice. Discuss Ismay’s and Lambiase’s actions in both cases.
- A.J. prides himself in being an intellectual, but in the end his brain betrays him, so to speak. What did you think about the ending? Discuss other possible endings to the novel.
- Lambiase isn’t a reader until he stumbles upon the right books for him. Then, he’s open to reading more widely. Does it matter what someone reads as long as it fosters a love for reading? Have you had a similar experience?
- A.J. loses something valuable (Tamerlane) and gains something invaluable (Maya). Even though Tamerlane is returned, we never really get A.J.’s thoughts on everything. How do you think he felt about the situation, about Ismay and Daniel, about Maya after he found out?
Have you read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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