Top: Arizona Jeans, JCPenney
Skirt: T.J. Maxx
Shoes: Delicious, Zulilly
Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Owls. They're wise, cerebral, know-it-alls, sometimes evil-eyed, but ultimately charming. Everyone loves an owl (you have only to peruse Pinterest or your local Target to know that it's true). And everyone loves A.J. Fikry. Or at least they do once they get to know him.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin, is one of those rare novels that is equal parts plot and character. What do I mean by that? Well, some books are all intrigue and action, whereas others are all inner monologue and/or character studies. (For the record, I'm on team character.) But The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is both. Which is to say that it's really good.
When we first meet A.J., he's in a bad way. His beloved wife has died in a car accident, and his bookstore is losing money. So he drinks and eats TV dinners and wishes that it all could be over. Curmudgeonly and introspective, A.J. is also a little snobby, especially when it comes to books, and people often find him off-putting. Which is just as well, because he prefers books to people. But paired with his pessimism is a droll, wry wit, a flicker of brilliance and warmth that makes you think, I'd like to hang out with this guy. This guy is one of the ones who gets it.
The thing about A.J. is, he's a good person -- he just doesn't know it. Not until two extraordinary things happen: 1) Someone steals his priceless book of Edgar Allen Poe poems. 2) Someone abandons a baby in his apartment. The Poe book was meant to fund his retirement, and when it vanishes, he feels like his life vanishes with it. As for the baby, A.J. doesn't like children; he doesn't even stock many children's books. But it's when the book disappears and the baby appears that A. J.'s life begins, making him realize his potential and expanding his world in ways he never thought possible. What happens in the end brings it all back full circle (and you know how I love a full circle), but I won't get into that so as not to be a spoiler. I'll just say that everything in between the beginning and end hinges upon a delicate web of mysteries that are all connected. Also, that this book isn't all serious symbols (although those certainly abound). It's also funny and, dare I say, sweet (although I know A.J., even in his reformed state, would hate that). It's a book about life and a book about books and how the two are intertwined. As A.J. puts it:
"We read to know we're not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone." (249)
I love this quote because it describes how I feel about reading. That it's the great equalizer, a passport into the hearts and minds of people we may not like or even know. That it lets us look past the noise of everyday life, giving us knowledge, empathy, and an understanding of our place in the world. Also, it comes in handy when there's only football and "Family Feud" on TV.
A.J. knew all this and then some. Which is another way that he's like the owl. Both in this Woodland Wonders Necklace and in nature. Also spooky stories where the mean old owl turns out to be kindly. His story is a hopeful one, reminding us that a little optimism (and okay, being the victim of a couple of very specific and well-thought-out crimes) can go a long way.
So, thanks, A.J. For giving me one more reason to read past my bedtime.