The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry




Funny World, right? Someone steals a book from you, someone else leaves you a baby.


The irascible A. J. Fikry, owner of Island Books – the only bookstore on Alice Island – has already lost his wife. Now his most prized possession, a rare book, has been stolen from right under his nose in the most embarrassing of circumstances. The store itself, it seems, will be next to go.
One night upon closing, he discovers a toddler in his children’s section with a note from her mother pinned to her Elmo doll: I want Maya to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about such kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her. A search for Maya’s mother, A. J.’s rare book, and good childcare advice ensues, but it doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the transformation of both bookstore and owner, something of particular interest to the lovely yet eccentric Knightley Press sales rep, Amelia Loman, who makes the arduous journey to Alice Island thrice each year to pitch her books to the cranky owner.
©2014 Gabrielle Zevin. Recorded by arrangement with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing Company, Inc. (P)2014 (p) 2014 HighBridge Company


A friend, who doubles as my review editor, recommended ‘The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry’ to me when Audible had a recent Black Friday sale. I read the book’s description and wasn’t quite sure why she thought this might appeal to me. Regardless, I made the book purchase and I am ending my reading in 2014 on a high point.
A. J. Fikry is a man on an island. This is true in both the literal and figurative sense. He actually lives on an island but has also become isolated after the death of his wife. His business is not going well, the other residents view him as a snob and unfriendly, and he has a rude encounter with a sales rep from a publisher early in the story. Then, a valuable book ‘Tamerlane’ by Edgar Allan Poe is stolen from him and he seems to have hit rock bottom.
The thing about rock bottom is that from there, you can only go up. Such is the case when a two year old girl named Maya is abandoned in his store. With the help of a kindly police officer named Lambiase and his former wife’s sister Ismay, Fikry begins to take care of the child. However, for all that he gives to her, she has really given him much more. She has given him both the reason and the opportunity to change his life.
He is even able to find love again with Amelia, the sales rep that he was so rude to in the beginning of the story. The rest of the book follows them over the years through the highs and lows. The story is also something of a mystery as we do eventually find out what became of ‘Tamerlane’.
The story is both heartwarming and tragic. In that way, it is an accurate portrayal of the struggle of daily life.
Being a book set in a bookstore, there are several literary references throughout the story. There are mentions of famous authors and famous works both classic and contemporary. More than one character weighs in on the debate of e-book vs. physical copy which still rages on today.
The question I find myself asking right now is how would A. J. Fikry the character feel about ‘The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry’ the book? He might find it too sentimental. He may find parts to be a bit too cliché or hard to believe. But I suspect that he would warm to it after being told by Amelia not be so set in his ways.


Gabrielle Zevin‘s affection for her subject matter is obvious. This is really a story about books and how they can connect people in many different and very unique ways. I found her writing to be poignant and charming.
Oftentimes when I write a review, I say that I would definitely read a certain author again in the future. However, in the case of Zevin, I would not simply read her work again if I happened to come across something. In her case I will actively seek out and anticipate any future projects.


Scott Brick once again hits a home run with his narration. He always conveys the right emotion for a given scene, from warmth and sadness to sarcasm and anger. If I had to describe the general tone of his narration, the word that comes to mind immediately is tender. The early scenes with A. J. and Maya are quite moving. An expert performance once again from Mr. Brick.


There are no music cues or other sound effects to be found on the track. There are 13 chapter stops with each chapter beginning with a mention of a short story that relates in some manner to the chapter’s content. There is not a flaw to be found in this HighBridge Audio recording.


‘The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry’ is a love letter to books. Yet, it is so much more than that. It is powerful and tragic, hopeful and sad. It is about redemption and personal growth.
It is marvelously executed and I am hard pressed to think of a person to whom I would not recommend it. Add in Scott Brick’s wonderfully moving narration and this was one of the best things I have read in quite some time. It reminds me both of why I love reading and the importance of hope in our lives. Nobody can tell exactly what twists and turns life will take and that is both the most frustrating and joyous part of life itself.


Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin Scott Brick HighBridge Company 04/01/2014 7 hours, 2 minutes 9.5/10


A copy of ‘The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry’ was purchased from Audible for review.