Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!
1. Consider the setting. Why do you think the author chooses to set the book on an island? How does the island setting reflect A.J.’s character?
I liked the island setting because I felt that A.J. didn’t quite fit there, He almost seemed to be a misfit in his own life. When I found out he quit school to start a bookstore with Nic things made a little more sense. I can picture him being a professor.. The island could certainly stand as a symbol for the way A.J. separated himself off from the world in general. It seems this was always his demeanor, but it worsened after Nic died. Maya’s entrance into his life reverses this and A.J. is able to open up and let people back in as she grows up.
2. Perhaps oddly, vampires are a recurring motif in the story: for example, when A.J.’s wife throws the vampire prom and when A.J. watches True Blood to court Amelia. What do you make of the references to vampires?
The vampires were a fun pop-culture inclusion that made the book a bit less stuffy. The fact that A.J. ends up liking True Blood more than he thought was a fun anecdote that added to his character development. It is interesting that in both cases it is the women in his life that force A.J. to step out of his comfort zone and accept gimmicky pop-culture tropes, something A.J. never would have done on his own.
3. 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?
This was one of the only plot points in the book that I didn’t particularly like. It seems silly that Ismay would steal a book from A.J. when her husband is a successful author and they likely aren’t hurting for money. She likely felt that giving Maya’s mother an object to resell, rather than giving her cash, was somehow less terrible. Lambiase was right to let her off, so much time had passed and the truth would have opened up some wounds that were best left alone.
4. At one point, Maya speculates that perhaps “your whole life is determined by what store you get left in” (page 85). Is it the people or the place that makes the difference?
This is one of the quotes from the book that stuck out to me, particularly because it was something Maya pondered when she was very young. Even though it comes from a child’s thought process, it was a poignant statement. Life in general is happenstance, and I often think about how where you are and when can alter the course of your life.
5. How do you think the arrival of the e-reader is related to the denouement of the story? Is A.J. a man who cannot exist in a world with e-books? What do you think of e-books? Do you prefer reading in e- or on paper?
I don’t think I would have made this connection on my own, without the prompting of this question. It is a poetic way to think about the introduction of the e-reader into the story. Personally, I prefer physical books. I have used my sisters kindle a few times and it feels kind of odd. That being said, it is pretty convenient!
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Questions by: Hello Book Lover & Lit Lovers