I came across one book called “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin about a month ago and without reading any reviews (even that brief one on the back cover) I immediately bought it. When I started reading it I got shocked with the first lines and paragraph because it started in the following terrifying way: “A woman killed her husband with a frozen leg of lamb. After that she got rid of the murder weapon by cooking it and feeding the investigating police officers with it.” It wasn’t a promising way for a relaxing book to start at all but I gave the narrative a second chance and continued reading it. And believe me that the book turned out to be really a humane one with a very intriguing and thrilling plot, not having anything in common with that frozen leg of lamb.
It’s because the book tells the story of A.J. Fikry who is a widow and the owner of a small bookstore on the Alice Island. His passion for books helps him find a very precious edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tamerlane” which he buys only for a couple of dollars but which in fact, costs millions of dollars. Unfortunately, Tamerlane is stolen from his bookstore one Friday evening and his most valuable belonging isn’t anymore with him. At such moments there’s one saying that one loses something today, but they will find another thing tomorrow. And it’s quite true because destiny and life smile at A.J. He finds a 25-month baby in one of the corners in his bookstore. The baby girl is little Maya who has been left by her mother who is found drowned a few days later. Nobody knows either the young woman or her baby but it’s a fact that before her death (or suicide) the young mother leaves a short message to him telling him that she has left her baby namely to Fikry and wants him to bring her up among all of the books in his bookstore and among intellectuals.
Thus A.J.’s life changes completely. At first, he doesn’t want to keep the baby but after a weekend spent with her, he gets convinced that he must take care of her and be her father. He has no experience in looking after small kids but Mr Google is of help anytime advising him how and with what to feed Maya, how to change her diapers and so on, and so on. In return, the little baby girl shows sincere affection, calls him Daddy and tells him she “Oves” (loves) him.
Yes …. And for the second time (after his wife’s death,) he finds his lady – young and beautiful Amelia. A.J. is extremely rude during their first meeting. His behaviour doesn’t change even after that. But all these changes related to Maya that have occurred make him realize that, as a matter of fact, he loves Amelia and marries her. Thus they become a family, one happy family.
Step by step, it’s revealed who Maya is and why she was left in the bookstore on that Friday evening. Tamerlane is found. Other deeply hidden secrets pop up after many years. And finally, the book doesn’t have a happy end as the most dreadful illness of our century – cancer, takes A.J.’s life.
There’s another book (“The Comfort of Strangers” by Ian McEwan) which starts quite excitingly. They are Mary and Colin who are a couple and they choose to spend their holidays in Venice. She is divorced with two children and he has been her lover for 7 years. They enjoy every minute of intimacy, the romantic atmosphere, cuisine and sunshine during their stay in the most romantic city in the world until the moment they meet Robert. After having got lost in the tiny streets along the tiny canals of Venice one night, the couple meets Robert. He brings them to a pub where he tells them his disturbing story of his childhood. Their second meeting with him is even more extraordinary because they meet Robert’s wife – Caroline. And, unfortunately, their third meeting is fatal. Caroline prepares tea with some drug in it for Mary. It paralyzes her but leaves her conscious, with the ability to see but without being able to talk. When Colin and Robert join the ladies in their apartment again, Robert slashes Mary’s lover’s wrist all of sudden and he dies. Later in hospital, Mary awakens and realizes what has happened. Her lover is dead while the strange family (Robert and Caroline) have gone. And all such crimes are normal and common, as it is hinted at the end of the book.
So, what’s the conclusion? No one can know what to expect from a book unless a reader has read thousands of reviews beforehand. So, every book is a “mystery” and it’s up to us to choose it precisely or to expect the unexpected but, for sure, we must never give up reading books. 🙂