The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
(Discussion questions provided by the publisher)
Q1: In "The Storied Life of AJ Fikry", each chapter begins with a book recommendation that illustrates something important AJ wants to share with his daughter. Which 3 books would you put on your own version of his list? And why? What was your favorite book reference moment?The author chooses to begin each chapter with a description of a short story. Discuss some of the ways the stories relate to the chapters with which they are paired. Is A.J. creating a canon for Maya? How does the book itself function as a kind of canon? If these are A.J.'s favorites, what do they say about A.J. as a reader and as a man?
Q2: What do AJ's book preferences say about him? What do your book preferences say about you?
Q3: Why do you think Gabrielle Zevin chose to set the book on an island? How does the island setting reflect A.J.'s character?
Q4: At one point, Maya speculates that perhaps "your whole life is determined by what store you get left in". Is it the people or the place that makes the difference? Do you think she was destined to become a writer from the very beginning or do you think it was the influence of the adults in her life?
Q5: Did A.J.'s decision to keep Maya surprise you? How did her addition to his family change the course of his life?
Q6: "They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?"
Amelia and A.J. have a unique courtship. Do you think they were meant for one another? How did you feel about their long-distance romance?
Q7: A.J. is disdainful of popular books & television until he forces himself to try them for Maya and Amelia (children's books & "True Blood"). Is popular something we should consider "bad" or "wrong"? Why do you think AJ feels this way? What is your reaction to the latest popular hit--eager to try it or actively avoid it?
Q8: Were you surprised by the outcome of the short story contest? What do you think of A.J.'s comments to Maya about why certain books and stories win prizes and others don't? Does the knowledge that a book has won a prize attract you to reading it?
Q9: "The things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we we'll respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life."
Have you revisited an old favorite and discovered it didn't hold your interest like it once did? Or, like AJ, have you found a new appreciation for something you didn't enjoy in your youth? What is it and why do you think your feelings changed?
Q10: "We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again."
What are some of the examples of this quote in action in the book? Do you agree with it?
Q11: Compare Maya's "fiction" about the last day of her mother's life to Ismay's version. Which do you consider to be more accurate and why?
Q12: At one point, A.J. asks Maya, "Is a twist less satisfying if you know it's coming? Is a twist that you can't predict symptomatic of bad construction?" What do you think of this quote in relation to the book? Did you guess who Maya's father was? If so, what were the clues?
Q13: Did you find Ismay's motivations for stealing Tamerlane to be forgivable? How do you think she should pay for her crime? Why do you think Lambiase lets her off?Do you think his story would have gone the way it did if he’d been able to hold on to the valuable manuscript?
Q14: Lambiase moves from an occasional or nonreader, to a reader, to a bookseller. How do you think becoming a reader changes him? Consider the scene where he decides not to confront Ismay about the backpack. Do you think Lambiase's reaction is different than it would have been if he hadn't taken up reading? How do you think phases of life affect your desire and ability to read?
Q15: How do you think the arrival of the e-reader is related to the conclusion of the story? Is A.J. a man who cannot exist in a world with e-books or do you think he eventually would have made peace with them? Do you agree with A.J.?
Q16: The author chooses to end the novel with a new sales rep coming to an Island Books that is no longer owned by A.J. What do you make of this ending? How would you describe the ending to a friend: Happy, Sad, or _________?
Q17: What do you think the future holds for physical books and bookstores?
Try reading the short stories along with the novel for a deeper reading.
Below is a list of the short stories mentioned at the beginning of each chapter with links of where to find them:
Authors Revealed 2014
Other Works by Gabrielle Zevin
(click on the book cover to purchase through Amazon.com)