The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, a novel by Gabrielle Zevin, is about a grieving widower named A.J. – old before his time at not even 40 – whose lonely life as a judgmental, cantankerous bookseller on Alice Island (a fictional Massachusetts island much like Martha’s Vineyard) is transformed when a small child named Maya enters his life. Narrated by Scott Brick, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was one of my favorite audiobooks of 2014. Bookish and clever, funny and moving, it’s a wonderful story, even if completely unrealistic.
I started this post back in May, but never wrote up a review, so I thought I’d just share a couple of quotes from the book. Lambiase (pronounced Lamb-bee-ay-zay, as I recall) is the police detective who is investigating the abandonment of Maya in A.J.’s bookstore.
“Lambiase does not miss his wife, although he does miss having somewhere to go after work. He parks himself on the floor and pulls Maya onto his lap. After Maya falls asleep, Lambiase tells A.J. the things he’s learned about the mother.
‘What’s strange to me,’ A.J. says, ‘is why she was on Alice Island in the first place. It’s kind of a pain to get here, you know. My own mother’s visited me once in all the years I’ve lived here. You really believe she wasn’t coming to see someone specific?’
Lambiase shifts Maya in his lap. ‘I’ve been thinking about that. Maybe she didn’t have a plan of where she was going. Maybe she just took the first train, and then the first bus, and then the first boat, and this is where she ended up.’
A.J. nods out of politeness, but he doesn’t believe in random acts. He is a reader, and what he believes in is narrative construction. If a gun appears in Act One, that gun had better go off by Act Three.”
* * *
Lambiase nods, and drinks his wine. “Nobody’s saying you have to keep her.”
“Yeah, yeah, of course. But do you think I could have some sort of say in where she ended up? She’s an awfully smart little thing. Like she already knows the alphabet, and I even got her to understand alphabetical order. I’d hate to see her land with some jerks who didn’t appreciate that. As I was saying before, I don’t believe in fate. But I do feel a sense of responsibility toward her. That young woman did leave her in my care.”
If you like quirky books like Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore or Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, or books that are about books and reading, you’ll probably like The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry very much. Listen to an excerpt here.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Brick, Scott (narr.)
7 hours on 7 CDs
Disclosure: I bought my own copy of this audiobook, which is nice, because I might want to listen to it again sometime.