Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

by Gabrielle Zevin

read by Scott Brick

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The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

by Gabrielle Zevin

read by Scott Brick

Review posted October 12, 2014.
HighBridge, 2014. 7 hours on 6 compact discs. Starred Review
2014 Sonderbooks Standout: #4 Fiction

After listening to the first CD of this audiobook, I was strongly tempted to quit. Put the whole book away. The book doesn’t even begin with A. J. Fikry. It begins with a woman who’s a publisher representative. She takes the difficult journey to Alice Island in Massachusetts to meet with the owner of Island Books. He hasn’t read his email and isn’t expecting her. In fact, he hadn’t realized that her predecessor is dead.

He is curmudgeonly and terribly rude to her. After she leaves, we see him get out the rare book that he’s counting on to pay for retiring from the bookselling business. He drinks until he passes out and imagines his recently-killed wife helping him to bed.

In the morning, his rare book, the one worth a fortune, is gone. The same policeman helps him who investigated his wife’s car accident.

Depressing story, right? I wasn’t crazy about the reader, either. It wasn’t terribly easy to tell who was talking by the voice.

But I continued into the second disc… and someone left a baby in the bookstore.

The baby changes A. J.’s life. In good ways. And this book about A. J.’s life ends up being delightful.

There are some dramatic plot twists thrown in. Perhaps the story isn’t entirely likely. But it has plenty of heart.

We see A. J.’s daughter grow to be a teenager, with the story focusing in on different crucial times in their shared lives. She’s a girl who loves books and reading. They are my kind of people.

By the end of the book, we’ve got a tribute to independent bookstores, and how they give a community its heart.