The Storied Life of AJ Fikry: A Fellowship of the Worms Fun-fest

July 18, 2014 Blogging, Book Club, Contemporary Fiction 15

Salutations Bookworms!

smarty-mcwordypants-199x300Who is excited and has two thumbs? THIS GIRL! Why? The Fellowship of the Worms is back in session!!! This month we took on The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, on your own blog. A linky list will be provided at the end of this post for anybody who has reviewed The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry on their own blog, even if it has nothing to do with the following discussion questions. Don’t be shy, please link up! (I’m looking at YOU, every book blogger ever!)

1. First things first. How much did you love all the book references? A.J. was constantly talking about the books he carried in his store, the books he recommended to his customers, the books he despised. What was your favorite book reference moment? I very nearly died laughing when the old woman came back to the store and yelled at AJ for recommending The Book Thief (review). The minute she said that it was narrated by Death I knew what she was talking about and I couldn’t help myself. It certainly IS rather traumatizing, if you’re not prepared for it. I’m not sure it’s worth berating a bookseller over, but I love quirky elderly characters.

2. How much did you love the AJ and Maya relationship? Am I the only person who got a MAJOR Silas Marner vibe here? Bitter man hoards riches and has heart opened by mysteriously abandoned child? I absolutely ADORED the thawing of AJ. I loved the way he interacted with Maya and conversed with her. Such a funny pair, these two! I think George Eliot would approve.

3. How did you like AJ and Amelia’s love story? Did you find it believable that such an intense relationship could AJFikrydevelop at a distance, especially considering the rocky start they had? I really enjoyed AJ and Amelia as a couple. Thank heaven for Maya- if it weren’t for her melting AJ’s frosty exterior, he never would have opened up to Amelia. I also rather liked the scene at the wedding when Maya gave Amelia the orange nail polish, “A Good MAN-darin is Hard to Find.” My not-so-secret career ambition is to be the nail polish namer for OPI. I’m so good at puns. SOMEBODY HIRE ME!

4. The book Amelia first tries to pitch to AJ was marketed as the memoir of an old man falling in love and getting married late in life. It is later revealed that the “memoir” was a work of fiction by a young female writer. Do you find it problematic that a book be falsely promoted in such a manner? Since I already name dropped George Eliot, let’s talk about pen names. Back in the day, it was SUPER common for female writers to use a male pseudonym to publish their work because a female name wouldn’t be taken as seriously. Even now, I see a lot of female writers using initials to publish as opposed to using their full names in an apparent effort to avoid being pigeon-holed into a lady genres (which is a sad reflection on the state of gender equality, but I digress.) I found it rather interesting that the author not only chose a pen name, but chose to call her novel a memoir. It actually reminded me of the whole hullaballoo when it was shown that James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces embellished his “memoir” so significantly that Oprah felt betrayed. I really liked that Zevin found a way to incorporate some of the dirty little secrets of publishing into her lovely book about books.

5. It turns out in the end that Ismay stole AJ’s copy of Tamerlane. Do you think his story would have gone the way it did if he’d been able to hold on to the valuable manuscript? I did not see this one coming! I mean, it made sense that is was Ismay, because she was one of the only people who knew he had it, but holy smokes! Much as I would have liked to, I found myself unable to hate Ismay. She was a hot steamy mess, that one, and I felt more pity for her than anger. I always love when I see flaws in a books heroes and humanity in the villains. It was really a blessing that AJ lost that dang book though. If he’d kept it, he’d have no Maya, no Amelia, and a whole lot more vindaloo on the wall.

Your turn, Bookworms! Tell me what you thought of this one! If you’ve responded to these discussion questions or reviewed The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry on your own blog, please link up!
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15 Responses to “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry: A Fellowship of the Worms Fun-fest”

  1. Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves

    I loved, loved this book! So much that I wrote a separate post with my favorite quotes from it…there were too many to go in my review! And – to your first question…I, horrors, also didn’t love The Book Thief! I know everyone else did, but it was just ok for me. I felt a special kinship to that woman for sure.

  2. Andi (@estellasrevenge)

    SILAS MARNER!!! Yes, yes, yes! I think I might’ve mentioned that in my review, too, but I was definitely thinkin’ it. I loved this book. No doubt it would be too sweet for some, but there was just so much I dug. The book references, the “epic” feel of it (a lifetime) in such a short amount of pages, and I really liked the characterization. Good stuff!

  3. Megan M.

    I have to read this book! I used to work at a Books-A-Million around the time that the movie adaptation of “Running With Scissors” came out, so the book was being read by everyone. One time this elderly lady came through the checkout line and asked me if I’d read it. When I said yes, she said, “That is the FILTHIEST book I have ever read.” And I was like, “I can’t disagree with you, ma’am.”

  4. Jennine G.

    I really enjoyed this book. The Book Thief was my favorite reference too. It made me laugh that the old woman didn’t count the emotion it stirred in her as making it worthy writing.

    I thought the relationships were all believable…I mean if you nitpicked, maybe you could say something, but to me it was all part of the charm of the story.

    And I couldn’t be mad at Ismay either…AJ would’ve sold the book and retired into his nothingness. Overall, a solidly lovable and enjoyable book!

  5. Ashley Z

    Oh AJ! I loved this book! I loved all the characters! I loved the story!
    1- all the book referees references were great! I loved all the call tag descriptions that AJ left for Maya. I really liked his passion for the books he loves.
    2- I think that Maya was just what AJ needed. Having a daughter really softened him. I loved how mature Maya was. Her and AJ made a great pair!
    3- I liked AJ and Amelia as a couple. They had great chemistry!
    4- I remember all the hoopla over James Frey and his book. I don’t believe I would personally feel betrayed over a situation like that. If a book is good and if a book is memorable and speaks to you on a personal level, then who cares wrote it or how it’s written!
    5- I kinda had a feeling it was Ismay. The Way AJ described that his wife put him to bed after he got drunk! I really liked Ismay. It was hard not to feel for her and all her hot-messness!
    Great little book! I enjoyed reading this!

  6. AMB (Koiviolet)

    I’m sorry I’m late to the party on this one! I haven’t read your post yet because I’m not quite finished with the book. Life just got in the way last week (mostly good stuff, at least!). I’ll comment and post when I’m done!

  7. Jancee

    The Infinite Jest references were my favorites, probably because I recently finished an Infinite Jest reading challenge with my roommate. Thanks for hosting this discussion and giving me the motivation to move this one up in priority!

  8. AMB

    Hi Katie! I’m sorry I’m late to join the discussion! I finally finished it. The second half took me forever to read (even though it’s a short novel):

    1. I liked the book references, even though I haven’t read many of the books that AJ mentioned. He and I have completely different taste in books (he’d say what I read is “crap”!).

    2. I loved the relationship between AJ and Maya. It shows how human AJ really is. I wish Zevin had treated us to a more in-depth look at Maya, though. I didn’t feel like a knew her very well (I felt that way about a lot of the characters, except for AJ).

    3. I liked AJ and Amelia as a couple, and the development was believable to me because it reminded me a little bit of how my husband and I got together (it was Spring break of our freshman yr of college, we were 1,000 miles away from each other, and we emailed each other obsessively “as friends” about books, politics, etc). I agree with AJ and Amelia that shared interests matter a lot in relationships!

    4. I thought that the Million Little Pieces moment was an unnecessary plot twist to keep us on our toes and give us a humorous scene. I didn’t like it much, but, if it had to be in the book, I wish Amelia had done more about it (though I can see why she wouldn’t). It’s consumer fraud!

    5. Hmmmm…. I guess I’m glad AJ lost Tamerlane, but I wish Zevin hadn’t tied up that subplot so neatly.

    Thanks for hosting this read-along!

  9. Charleen

    Yes, the book references were amazing. I loved all the quotes about reading life in general. (My favorite was from near the end, “We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.”) But it was fun to see the different references pop up – even more so when I actually recognized them – which really helped to set the scene and ground the story in the real world.

    I think I liked AJ and Amelia more than AJ and Maya. Maybe because it seemed more believable to me… not that adopting a daughter wouldn’t have changed him the way it did, but I’m just not sure he would have adopted her in the first place… I’m not sure she would have changed him that much that quickly.

    The deal with the “memoir”… I have no issue whatsoever with using a pen name, but I do think I draw the line at passing fiction off as non-fiction. Yes, memoirs have some embellishment to them, but yeah, I wouldn’t have appreciated having the rug pulled out from under me like that, with a book I loved.

    (Although, on a similar note, I do think it’s silly how upset some people got about J.K. Rowling “lying” when news broke about The Cuckoo’s Calling. I’ve heard people say that a pen name is one thing, but a fake bio is unacceptable… but I’ve seen that before too. I really think it’s only because it’s her that they’re getting so up-in-arms about it.)

    • AMB

      Yeah, it does seem unlikely AJ would adopt Maya. It’s an another area that could’ve used more development.

      As for JK Rowling, I can see why the fake bio wouldn’t bother everyone, but it really bothered me (and I believe it could violate the federal Lanham Act). It wasn’t just a fake bio–which is bad enough in my opinion–but the bio claimed that the book grew directly from Galbraith’s experience in the military. This is what the bio said: “The idea for Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world.” Some consumers might be more likely to buy a book from an unknown author (as “Robert Galbraith” was) if they believe the events stem from actual experience (as though the author is an expert).

      • Charleen

        I guess if that is the specific reason I read the book, only to find out it wasn’t true, then I’d be upset too. (Like passing the novel off as a memoir, but on a much smaller scale.) It’s just hard for me to wrap my head around, because like I said, this isn’t the first time I’ve come across a fake bio, so I didn’t think anything of it. I was just excited to see a new JKR book… and then suddenly I’m seeing all this outrage about it.

  10. Darlene @ Lost in Literature

    Hey! Look who’s a year behind!! I just read Fikry and I am SO in love with it!!

    1. Oh I loved the book references! Even though there were so many that I have not read, some are now on my TBR.:) (And Moby Dick was on my list already!) I giggled when I saw the Book Thief reference but my favorites were A Good Man-darin is Hard to Find, with the nail polish and the fact that Amelia’s dad had gifted her with that book, AND I loved when he said, “It matters who placed A Wrinkle in Time in your twelve-year-old daughter’s nail bitten fingers…”

    2. I adored A.J. and Maya’s relationship. Only for a second I may have thought, “Well, that was too easy or too quick,” but only for a second, because I was too busy just loving the way everything was going. Sigh…after pg.78 with the chapter intro for “What Feels Like the World”, he writes, “I did not encounter this story until after I became a father so I cannot say if I would have liked it as well P.M. (pre-Maya). I have gone through phases in my life when I am more in the mood for short stories. One of those phases coincided with your toddlerhood-what time had I for novels, my girl?” Sigh…again.

    3.I could buy into AJ’s and Amelia’s romance. Took a long time which I think matches AJ’s personality just fine. I loved the first date at the Moby Dick themed restaurant.

    4. I don’t feel particularly strongly about the memoir situation. If I were Amelia, I definitely would have been disappointed. I’m not sure if I would have told AJ. I think I would have eventually but not right away. What a mess that night was!

    5. I still think AJ’s life would have turned out the same with or without Tamerlane. Maya would have ended up in that store regardless. Besides, AJ didn’t love that book anyway, he was just saving it for retirement. And I love that he gave Maya Tamerlane for her middle name. Sigh, again, just so much to love…

    Extra: I also liked when Mom bought everyone e-readers and he was all, rightly so, offended. But what Amelia said is true. I’ve gotten to where it is very hard for me to read a physical book unless I have a ton of light shining down on it and my eyes are cooperating. My kindle makes reading so much easier, especially at night. I don’t lose my bookmark, I don’t have to mess with awkward book lights, and so far, I have only had to increase my font size once. ( I read Fikry in paper-flesh, and I’m so glad I have the actual copy for my shelf but I’m going digital more and more these days.)

    Only one criticism, I found the language a little abrupt at the beginning and at the end. You know I don’t like that anyway but I’ve grown used to it. I just didn’t think that in this case, such a high-impact, profane word fit such a charming story.

    Man I loved this book…

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