The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommends
Edited By: Katarina Bivald
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of the publishers via GoodReads First Reads Programme
It all began with a correspondence between two quite different women: 28-year-old Sara from Haninge, Sweden, and 65-year-old Amy from the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. After years of exchanging books, letters and thoughts on the meaning of literature and life, Sara, mousy, disheveled, who has never been anywhere in her life–has really lived only for her work in a beloved bookshop, which has just closed its doors for the last time–bravely decides to accept her unknown friend’s invitation to visit. But when she arrives, she finds her house empty, the funeral guests just heading home. . .
Sara finds herself alone. And what choice do the inhabitants of Broken Wheel have but to take care of their bewildered tourist? And what choice does Sara have, faced with a town where nobody reads and her desire to honour her friend, but to set up the perfect bookshop with all the books she and Amy shared–from Yann Martel’s Life of Pi to Iris Murdoch and Jo Nesbo, to Bridget Jones and Doug Coupland’s All Families Are Psychotic to Little House on the Prairie? And then watch as the townsfolk are, one by one, transformed in unexpected ways. . .
I didn’t know about this delightful book until I saw it listed as a Goodreads giveaway. I love books about books and book readers (see list) so this sounded like the perfect book. What more can I say? So I was delighted when I learned that I won an ARC of this novel for review. This book will be available on 25 August 2015.
From the all-things-books vantage point, this book was a delight. You can almost play a little game with all of the titles that the book mentions–which ones you’ve read, which ones you recognise–not to mention some terrific new recommendations to check out (I’ve never been interested in picking up Henry David Thoreau’s Walden until now). And we book readers & lovers can definitely relate with some of Sara and Amy’s sentiments about books and reading and everything about it (love that Sara has a suitcase of books and carries a book with her everywhere and can sit for hours just reading–we all know this 😉 ). Their penpal friendship, spanning oceans, and their bond over books is such a terrific highlight, and having Amy’s letters interject between chapters is a wonderful way of bringing the character to the fold even though she is no longer present amongst the other characters.
The story itself was interesting enough, especially when focusing on Sara’s journey in discovering Broken Wheel and making her way through it and the quirky collection of inhabitants that live in the small town. I really empathised with her, especially as she found herself at crossroads with what she’s doing with her life. As I mentioned, the inhabitants were interesting in their own way and played their part in the town’s overall makeup. However, the subplots concerning some of their romances didn’t quite interest me as much as Sara’s story; so much so that I think if some of their stories had been trimmed or not touched on at all, the overall novel might’ve been tighter :3
Speaking of romances, I’m not sure what to make of Sara and Tom’s odd relationship. It has all of the makings of a romance that I’d enjoy–opposites attract/surprise to find them falling for the other, obvious obstacles along the way, the town trying to play matchmaker and the two aren’t so game, etc–and yet it felt like something was missing. Tom’s quite the foil against Sara’s character: he’s definitely not a reader, he’s very serious and doesn’t seem to relax much, he was actually quite the Mr. Darcy when Sara first met him with a extra shot or two of Mr. Knightley’s grumpiness. I think it has to do with the way the scenes play out; there’s just not enough moments between them to convey a softer edge to Tom’s personality–or more to his personality at all–to convince me that maybe their relationship will work or for me to root for them entirely.
Overall, I enjoyed The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommends. From the perspective of everything books, it was a delightful read that other book lovers will sure to understand and relate to. The rest of the story was all right, namely from Sara’s story, but I didn’t quite connect with the other inhabitants enough to quite as enjoy their respective subplots. The overall story does take a turn for Green Card but otherwise it was still an enjoyable read.