Living and Loving by the Book: Zevin’s THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY

March 31st, 2014 by Kay Weiss · No Comments · Uncategorized

He looks across the spines, which are, for the most part, black and red with all capitalized fonts in silvers and whites. An occasional burst of fluorescence breaks up the monotony. A. J. thinks how similar everything [looks]. Why is any one book different from any other book? They are different, A. J. decides, because they are. We have to look inside many. We have to believe. We agree to be disappointed sometimes so that we can be exhilarated every now and again.

He selects one and holds it out to his friend. “Maybe this?”

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Having worked in publishing for nearly 30 years, I sometimes catch myself assessing rather than simply enjoying a new book. The analytical side of my listening brain fights with the emotional one that just wants to succumb to a story’s charms.

“Analytical brain” fought valiantly against Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, read by Scott Brick—but it was no match. One reason might be that Fikry himself fights so hard against the turns in his life. You identify with him only to find yourself, like him, forced by fate to accept a very unexpected path. The path is not without rocks and roots to trip one up; it’s not “a walk in the park”; but you come to the end knowing you are better for the journey—even if you never really had any choice in taking it.

The basic premise of Storied Life is this: A bookstore owner’s fortunes have fallen apart after the accidental death of his wife. Then one day a baby girl is abandoned in his store. Always a rather interior if not unsocial man, the addition of the baby forces his loner life to change.

What makes Storied Life special is Zevin’s keen understanding of bookstores, the publishing industry, and literature. Both the humor and the poignancy she draws from this understanding and deploys in subtle ways lends additional heft to a story essentially about love and transformation.

Narrator Scott Brick* captures those subtleties in a reading that uses pace and pause to full effect. For instance, when Fikry is speaking or acting, it seems like the reading slows just infinitesimally, providing a slight weight or sense of age to a man who in many ways does behave like someone older than his years.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is for cynics and romantics; it’s for English majors and would-be writers; it’s for parents and for loners; for anyone who’s ever worked at a bookstore or in publishing; it’s for anyone who’s experienced loss or felt stuck in a rut or has searched for love. That covers quite a range of people. So it’s with confidence that, if you’re looking for an audiobook to exhilarate you, I can hold this one out and say “Maybe this?”


* Read more about Scott’s thoughts on narrating Storied Life here.

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