A Book for Bookstore Lovers: “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry”

by | Feb 15, 2024

a beach in cape cod the location for the storied life of aj fikry
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Featured image: Set in a fictional town, the movie was filmed in Cape Cod | Photo from Envato by haveseen

“A place without a bookstore is not a place”

by Carolyn Ray

What could be better than a book about books?  Even better when it’s a book with such a strong sense of place, memorable characters and an important message to share, around second chances and the joy of the unexpected.

Set on a fictional island, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is named after the main character, A.J. Fikry. Fikry is a depressed widower who recently lost his wife and now 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. One day, a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. Its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over—and see everything anew.

In 2022, a movie version of the book was released that stars Kunal Nayyar (TV’s The Big Bang Theory) in the title role as a grumpy, alcoholic bookshop owner, and Lucy Hale as Amelia, a publishing rep who regularly makes the trip to Alice Island to suggest new books. It was filmed in Cape Cod largely at Parnassus Book Service, a 65-year-old business housed in an early 19th-century Yarmouth Port building and also features other locations including the Hy-Line ferry and its offices, and Hyannis backgrounds of Main Street businesses, the harbor overlook and Keyes Memorial (Sea Street) beach.

I found both the book and the movie heartwarming, funny and an important reminder of why we need local bookstores. When I travel, one of my first stops is always the local bookstore – it’s the heartbeat of any town or village, and a place where curiosity is welcomed and appreciated. After reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, I won’t be surprised if you feel a desire to hop on a ferry and visit an island bookstore for yourself!

“A smart, sweet and surprising story about life, love and second chances.” — CBC Books 

About the Author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Gabrielle Zevin is a New York Times best-selling novelist whose books have been translated into 40 languages. A screenwriter and author, she began writing at the age of 14. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Los Angeles.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is her 3th novel and spent many months on the New York Times Best Seller List. A.J. Fikry was honored with the Southern California Independent Booksellers Award for Fiction, the Japan Booksellers’ Prize, among other honors. A.J. Fikry is now a feature film with a screenplay by Zevin.

She has also written the novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, the award-winning children’s book Elsewhere, and is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (Helena Bonham Carter) for which she received an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best First Screenplay.  To learn more, visit her website here.

Book Club Discussion Questions: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

  1. What was your favourite passage in the book, and why?
  2. The story is set on a fictional island named Alice, near Cape Cod. Why do you think the author chose an island (and a fictional one at that) as its location? Did any of the passages feel familiar to you from your own travels?
  3. A.J. believes that “you know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, ‘What is your favourite book?’”  What is your favourite book?  What do you think your choice might tell A.J. about you?
  4. Did you enjoy the literary recommendations at the beginning of each chapter, or in the main narrative? If you’ve read any of the stories mentioned, did you agree or disagree with A.J.’s assessment?
  5. Amelia’s mother liked to say that “novels have ruined Amelia for real men.” Could the same be true of places? Has a book ever given you a preconceived idea of a destination and, if so, how did you feel when you visited the place for yourself?
  6. What was your initial reaction to Lambiase as a character? Were you surprised at his development as the novel progressed?
  7. The book contains a scene set in a Moby Dick-themed restaurant. Have you ever visited a literary-themed venue on your travels?
  8. What did you think of the author of The Late Bloomer and the choices they made when publishing their book? When it comes to blending fiction and non-fiction, is there a line a writer shouldn’t cross? Is this line in the same place for different genres, like historical novels and memoirs?
  9. What did you think of the idea that “your whole life is determined by what store you get left in”? Do you think your view has been influenced by your travels?
  10. The Chief’s Choice Book Club reads crime novels and police procedurals. Ours chooses books set in recognisable geographic destinations, often coupled with themes related to travel. What other types of book clubs have you encountered?
  11. What did you think of the Christmas present A.J. received, and his reaction to it? What is your personal preference between hardcovers, paperbacks, e-readers and audiobooks?
  12. In a conversation between Lambiase and Ismay, she details a long list of genres, themes and tropes that might attract her to a new book – or cause her to leave it on the shelf. How about you? Do you think your life as a traveller has influenced your own list?

More on the less-travelled places in the USA

As the CEO and Editor of JourneyWoman, Carolyn is a passionate advocate for women's travel and living the life of your dreams. She leads JourneyWoman's team of writers and chairs the JourneyWoman Women's Advisory Council and Women's Speaker's Bureau. She has been featured in the New York Times, Toronto Star and Zoomer as a solo travel expert, and speaks at women's travel conferences around the world. In March 2023, she was named one of the most influential women in travel by TravelPulse and was the recipient of a SATW travel writing award in September 2023. She is the chair of the Canadian chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a member Women's Travel Leaders and a Herald for the Transformational Travel Council (TTC). Sometimes she sleeps. A bit.


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