AJ Fikry is cantankerous, particular, unpleasant, and quite set in his ways. As a bookseller it is easier for him to describe everything he doesn't like than what he does. If it isn't literary fiction or a short story, he isn't interested. Yet as the novel unfolds and we begin to learn why AJ is like he is, we come to understand him. As the story progresses and he begins to thaw, we come to love him.
But, much as I enjoyed getting to know him, the highlight of the story was not AJ or the host of other characters who populate the book, it was Island Books. A local bookstore that has not been run off by the likes of the chain stores, it is a place that every book lover would love to call their home away from home. This book more than anything is a love letter to the book store. AJ's story was just an excuse to write it.
As for the story, I enjoyed it. It was charming, particularly part one. I especially enjoyed AJ's commentary on his favorite short stories and interactions with his customers, such as the old lady who had to return a book for keeping her up all night or the gentleman providing unwanted business advice. The second part was less enjoyable. As a reader I felt more than a little manipulated. While every book and every author manipulate the reader, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. This was the wrong way, heavy handed and obvious. There were some beautifully written scenes towards the end, it is clear the author has talent, but it was just too much, too obvious. This was a good novel, but not a great novel, and to be honest I am not sure what all the fuss is about.