Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf ~ For the Love of Books: Featuring Gabrielle Zevin and Will Schwalbe

 

By Lynn Willoughby

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry ~ Gabrielle Zevin

I loved this little book about books. I think it is a very clever concept – especially if you are a family of readers.

A.J. Fikry owns a small bookstore on an island off Cape Cod. His wife has died, his book sales are down and he is isolating himself more and more. His life is not turning out as he expected.

One day a two year old is left in his store. Her mother’s body washes up on shore and the upshot is, he adopts her. Fikry becomes more social, his friends help him with day to day chores involving a child. He, himself, knows nothing about children. However, he manages, she is precocious and as she is growing up in a book store, becomes a reader at a very young age.

A.J. becomes less irascible and as a result, more and more people start coming to the book store. He makes new friends, he sells more books, he expands the children’s area and a bookclub develops. The Chief of Police is a member and they become good friends. The Chief’s Choice bookclub now develops.

As Maya grows older, A.J. begins advising her on new books to read and often they contain the advice or lesson he wants her to learn, but is unable to talk about. I found it fascinating.

Near the end A.J. says to Maya “We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.” I think I will take this as my life motto!

  • In the Age of Love and Chocolate
  • Because It Is My Blood

…………and several others

The End of Your Life Book Club ~ Will Schwalbe

The title of this work of non-fiction sounds grim, and the story is grim in many ways. Schwalbe’s mother has been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. But the joy of this book is the love of books they share, and their book club of two sets a goal of discussing books instead of illness.

As Schwalbe and his mother spend time in hospital waiting rooms, while the chemo drips into Mary Anne’s vein, walking in a park, driving to do errands or quietly reading side by side – books are the world they share. It is a wonderful gift for them both – as it leads to wider discussions about life, or they speak of everyday matters. “She never wavered in her conviction that books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading…is the greatest entertainment and also how you take part in the human conversation.” writes Schwalbe. How very powerful.

I highly recommend this book – for the journey, for getting to know Schwalbe’s family and not least for my own book list gleaned from their readings. Many of the books in their book club I have read. Many they read for a second time. Many books they discussed were new to me and I have read several.

As Mary Anne struggles with loss of appetite, nausea, mouth sores, low energy, pain and discomfort, she nevertheless continues with many of her day to day activities. She sees a dream come true – a library will be built in Kabul, with mobile lending libraries – something she had worked so very hard to make happen.
She says:”Throughout my life whenever I am sad or confused or disoriented I always seek refuge in a book. Books focus me, calm me, take me outside myself.” This is also true for me and I was amazed that anyone else felt that way and articulated it so well.

Schwalbe illustrates so very well in this book, the power of the written word, and how it expands our knowledge of ourselves and others.

Who Knew?

Traditional chemo therapies work by killing cells that divide rapidly. These include the cancerous cells, of course, but also healthy, fast growing cells, especially the cells that line the mucous membranes inside the mouth, throat and stomach.

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