Darn Good Reads

Postcards, we have bought them, sent them, received them.  And sometimes, ones from days gone by show up when sorting through boxes or when used as a bookmark.  That is exactly what happened to Kate Pheris and daughter Devin in Lost Lake (2014) by Sarah Addison Allen.

Lost Lake, located in southern Georgia, near the Florida line, is one of those old cabin resorts where families used to spend their vacation time.  It was not at all unusual for the same folks to return year after year.  Eby Pim, Kate’s great aunt, has owned the resort since early in the 60s.

Eby now feels it is her final summer.  The cabins are in need of repair plus, it is the first summer ever that no reservations have been made.  It was the summer Eby agreed to sell Lost Lake to a developer.

After finding a postcard from 15 years ago, Kate and Devin decide to take the four-hour journey to Lost Lake without telling her overbearing mother-in-law, Cricket Pheris.  Cricket has been managing Kate and Devin’s life ever Kate’s husband Matt was killed in an accident a year ago.  Kate felt she ready to escape to the place “That was probably the last best summer I ever had.”

The opening chapter in this novel, which takes place in Paris in 1962, is when you first meet Eby.  You may wonder about what Paris in 1962 has to do as you continue on in the book.  It all comes together when you meet Lisette who is now in her 60s.

Lisette and Eby have been best friends for 30 years.  Lisette, was born unable to speak.  She responds by writing replies on a notebook she has hanging on twine around her neck.

An entire gang of misfits come together at Long Lake.  Some of them will stick with you, others may irritate you, but may win you over, maybe not.  Take for instance Buladeen, a former professor now in her 80s, who sports bright red hair and loves wine.  Then there is Selma who is 65 but says she is 50.  She is tall.  After seven husbands, she, with her always painted face, proves to be quite a flirt.

Podiatrist Jack Humphrey, also in his 60s, is tall and lean and in love with Lisette.  He always liked the quiet at the lake, therefore he was naturally drawn to quiet Lisette.

Wes Patterson, was a local boy for the lake who was part of what made Kate’s first visit to the lake the best summer she ever had.  Now he does odd jobs around the resort.  Several other minor, yet interesting, personalities are woven throughout the storyline.

Lost Lake could have easily been a longer book if more of Eby and Kate had been more in depth, along with learning more about some of the colorful characters.  But, that is ok.  The book was a delightful, light read with just a touch of enchantment.  Makes for a nice rainy afternoon read or enjoying a day at the beach.

This next novel is going to introduce you  to Mr. A.J. Fikry.  If you had dealt with A.J. before P.M. (pre-Maya) your description most likely would included words such as cantankerous, judgmental, lonesome, and/or sad.  A.J. is transformed slowly when two very different people enter his life on Alice Island.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (2014) by Gabrielle Zevin opens with 31-year-old Amelia Loman heading to A.J.’s bookstore, Island Books.  She is a sales rep for a publishing company.  Amelia is replacing A.J.’s usual rep.  A.J. reluctantly allows her to begin her spiel, but their first meeting does not go smoothly.  Amelia heads to the dock to await the ferry back to Hyannis.

A.J. closes the shop and climbs to his attic apartment.  A.J., 39, lives alone since his wife Nic died a year and half ago.  He pours himself a merlot, and another, and another.  A.J. passes out at the table.  He has a dream/flashback about when Officer Lambiase comes to tell him that Nic has been killed in an auto accident.

Upon awakening from an evening of too much wine, A.J. notices his precious and valuable collection of poems, Tammerlane, by Edgar Alan Poe is missing.  A.J. is so confused and upset, he puts on his running shoes, and still wearing a bathrobe, runs to the police department to report the thief.  Officer Lambiase again meets up with A.J.

Life for A.J. is not a bed of roses and continues a downhill slide.  Sales at his bookstore are in a slump.  Plus, a baby with a soiled diaper has been abandoned in the children’s section of his store.  Now Chief Lambiase is one duty when A. J. takes the baby, Maya, to the police station.  Because it is Friday and 9 at night, and it is snowing plus the fact a ferry schedule to consider, Maya goes home with A.J.

With all the events in his life, A.J. has given the residents of Alice something about which to gossip.  A.J. is becoming attached to Maya.  But, with all the talk and advice being offered, Island Books sales have begun to do a slow climb.  A.J. adds new titles to his shelves.  The advice-giving women ended up forming a reading group.

By the time Maya is about to turn 3, the adoption has been finalized.  A.J. and Maya are now an official family.

Recall at the beginning of the review I wrote that two people made a difference in A.J.’s life.  One was Maya, who is now in Kindergarten, the other is Amelia, the sales rep.

Amelia continued over the years to take the ferry to Alice Island to introduce new books to A.J.  But, it was not until A.J. finally read The Late Bloomer, the title Amelia had suggested at their very first meeting, that A.J. and Amelia connect via the telephone.

He called Amelia to apologize for taking so long to read the book.  He felt it was “spectacular in its small way”.  Her reply, “Maybe the next time you’ll listen to me when I tell you something’s the ‘best book of the winter list!”

They make plans for dinner when she is in town to go over the new winter list.  A.J. tells her about Nic.  Amelia tells him about her fiancé Brett.   After the meal, a cordial handshake and they go their separate ways.

And folks that is all I am going to tell you about The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.  All the aforementioned is just the first half of the book.  Other characters and events help shape the outcome of this tale of the transformation of A.J. Fikry.

I enjoyed this novel so much, I reread it as I started writing my thoughts on the book.  It is a quiet read.  Paid much closer attention to his “shelf notes” found throughout the book on the second reading.  The “notes” added more to the story than I caught on the first read.  Enjoy this all you book lovers.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is all about books and those who love a good read.


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