Gabrielle Zevin – The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Read By: Scott Brick
Length: 7h 02m (272 pages)
Genre: General Fiction
Started: 18 July 2015
Finished: 22 July 2015
Where did it come from? Downloaded from Audible.
Why do I have it? I’d had it on my mental list for a while, then one of my friends called it “life-changing”.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 11 June 2015.
teaches a cranky bookstore
owner how to love.
Summary: A. J. Fikry is the curmudgeonly owner of the only bookstore on Alice Island, off the coast of New England. After the death of his wife, he becomes bleak and withdrawn, no longer taking care of himself or finding pleasure in his job, and this is compounded when someone steals his one valuable possession – a rare copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane. But then he finds something that will change his life forever: a baby abandoned in his shop by a young mother from the mainland who commits suicide. As A. J. makes the decision to raise Maya himself, what he discovers is a community of people that love and support him, and whom he comes to care for in return.
Review: That summary makes this novel seem like 100% pure grade Lifetime movie, treacly, emotionally manipulative schlock. And objectively, it kind of is. But subjectively, even though I normally wouldn’t touch that kind of thing with a ten-foot pole, it didn’t bother me at all. I could feel my emotions being manipulated, but I just didn’t care. The book uses the device of having every chapter, introduced by A. J. writing to Maya about his favorite short stories, and why she should read them, and then each chapter plays out like a short story, often mentioning or mirroring the short story that A. J. has recommended. This device is certainly charming for the bibliophile reader (and of course, this whole book is genetically engineered to appeal to book lovers – you don’t set your story in a bookstore if that’s not your intended audience), but it also has the effect of telegraphing many of the story’s key plot points in advance. Even without this, there’s a lot in this story that’s predictable – does anyone really think that Amelia, the feisty-yet-determined publisher’s rep who in the first chapter has a disastrous meeting with a grieving A. J., is going to somehow NOT going to become a romantic interest? Of course not. But even as my cynical side says: treacly, manipulative, predictable; my soft gooey inside (who knew that I had one?) really enjoyed listening to this book. A. J. is prickly and cranky and grief-stricken, but not in a cartoonish way, and his transformation is realistic (he never suddenly becomes Mr. Sunshine and Rainbows) and earned. The supporting characters are slowly developed to become almost as integral a part of the story as A. J., Amelia, and Maya. There are some really insightful points made about our lives, and how we live them, and what they mean, and what matters in the end. And ultimately, this book just felt warm-hearted, and that feeling was enough to draw me in, keep me invested, and (temporarily) hush up my inner cynic. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If “baby abandoned in a bookstore” makes your ears perk up and you don’t mind a little (mostly well-earned) emotional manipulation with your warm fuzzies, then you should give this book a try. If your heart is made of completely unmeltable stone, however, you can feel free to give it a pass.
First Line: On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor’s notes.
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