A.J. Fikry is going through a rough time. He is still grieving the loss of his wife, who died in a car accident two years ago. His small independent bookstore on Alice Island (somewhere off the coast of New England) is steadily failing. And someone has just stolen his most valuable possession, a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane. A.J.’s current method of dealing with these problems is to isolate himself from everyone, even Ismay, his sister-in-law, and Officer Lambiase, a compassionate policeman. But everything changes when someone leaves a baby girl in the bookstore, along with a note placing her in A.J.’s care. At first, A.J. wants nothing to do with this situation, but he eventually bonds with the child and decides to adopt her. The more time he spends with baby Maya, the more cracks appear in his cantankerous facade. He slowly opens up to Ismay, Lambiase, and the rest of his community, even finding the courage to fall in love again. A.J.’s story ultimately illustrates that good friends and good books make a good life.
I actually started this book on New Year’s Eve, but I stayed up past midnight to finish it, so I’m officially counting it as my first book of 2015! For obvious reasons, I’m drawn to books about bookstore owners, especially cranky ones with very particular literary tastes. As a result, I really liked A.J. as a character, even when he was being rude and obnoxious (which was often). His romance with publisher’s rep Amelia Loman is absolutely adorable, especially in its early stages when he’s being tentative and embarrassed. Their teasing, slightly awkward banter is a pleasure to read. I also liked Maya’s character, which surprised me a bit, since I usually find children in novels tiresome. But I enjoyed watching her grow up and absorb her father’s love of literature, which culminates in her own desire to be a writer. The book is somewhat disorganized, jumping into the heads of several different characters, and the stakes aren’t particularly high. But for a pleasant read about people who love books, I’d definitely recommend this novel!