Excerpt from The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

A Novel

by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2014, 272 pages
    Dec 2014, 288 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Two Fridays before Christmas, two minutes before close, A.J. makes the rounds of kicking out and ringing up the last customers. A man in a puffy coat is hemming and hawing over the latest Alex Cross. "Twenty-six dollars seems like a lot. You know I can get it cheaper online, right?" A.J. says that he does know as he shows the man the door. "You should really lower your prices if you want to be competitive," the man says.

"Lower my prices? Lower. My. Prices. I hadn't considered that before," A.J. says mildly.

"Are you being cheeky, young man?"

"No, I'm thankful. And at the next Island Books shareholders' meeting, I'll definitely raise this innovative suggestion of yours. I know we want to remain competitive. Between you and me, for a time in the early oughties, we'd given up on competition. I thought it was a mistake, but my board decided that competition was best left to Olympic athletes, kids in spelling bees, and cereal manufacturers. These days, I'm glad to report that we at Island Books are definitely in the competition business once again. The store's closed, by the way." A.J. points toward the exit.

As puffy coat grumbles his way out the door, an old woman creaks over the threshold. She is a regular customer, so A.J. tries not to be too annoyed that she is coming in after hours. "Ah, Mrs. Cumberbatch," he says. "Unfortunately, we're closing now."

"Mr. Fikry, don't you turn those Omar Sharif eyes of yours on me. I am outraged at you." Mrs. Cumberbatch pushes past him and slams a plump paperback on the counter. "The book you recommended to me yesterday is the worst book I have read in all my eighty-two years, and I would like my money back."

A.J. looks from the book to the old woman. "What was your problem with it?"

"Problems, Mr. Fikry. To begin, it is narrated by Death! I am an eighty-two-year-old woman and I do not find it one bit pleasurable to read a five-hundred-fifty-two-page tome narrated by Death. I think it is a remarkably insensitive choice."

A.J. apologizes but he is not sorry. Who are these people who think a book comes with a guarantee that they will like it? He processes the return. The book's spine is broken. He will not be able to resell it. "Mrs. Cumberbatch," he cannot resist saying, "it appears that you read this. I wonder how far along you got."

"Yes, I read it," she replies. "I most certainly did read it. It kept me up all night, I was so angry with it. At this stage of my life, I would rather not be kept up all night. Nor do I wish to have my tears jerked at the rate at which this novel jerked them. The next time you recommend a book to me, I hope you'll keep that in mind, Mr. Fikry."

"I will," he says. "And I do apologize, Mrs. Cumberbatch. Most of our customers have rather liked The Book Thief."

Once the store is closed, A.J. goes upstairs to change into his running clothes. He leaves through the bookstore's front entrance and, as has become his custom, does not lock the door.

A.J. had run cross-country on his high school's team and then at Princeton. He picked up the sport mainly because he had no skill for any other sport aside from the close reading of texts. He never really considered running cross-country to be much of a talent. His high school coach had romantically referred to him as a reliable middleman, meaning that A.J. could be counted on to finish in the upper middle of any pack. Now that he hasn't run for a while, he has to concede that it had been a talent. In his current condition, he can't make it more than two miles without stopping. He rarely runs more than five miles total, and his back, legs, and basically every part of him hurt. The pain turns out to be a good thing. He used to pass his runs by ruminating, and the pain distracts him from such a fruitless activity.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Copyright © 2014 by Gabrielle Zevin. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hag-Seed
    by Margaret Atwood
    There's a scene in The Tempest that many critics have concluded is indicative of Shakespeare&#...
  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.