I loved this book!
Sara loves books. Sara hates her mundane life in Sweden. Sara's dearest friend is her pen pal Amy, a single elderly lady living in Broken Wheel, Iowa. Broken Wheel is a sad broken town with little to recommend it except its characters, er...residents. What a group!
Sara saves her money and accepts pen pal Amy's invitation to visit Broken Wheel. The fun begins upon her arrival which happens on the day of Amy's funeral...oh my, what to do?
Sara has a visa for 2 months and doesn't want to return home. The town jumps in and works feverishly to help her remain for that time or even longer. That is, after all, "what Amy would want."
It was through their mutual love of books that they became pen pals. Amy was a book collector; Sara, much younger, a book lover. Everyone and everything in the book is related to literature, to books most of us have read. I loved that.
Sara has magically 'inherited' anything that was Amy's, but doesn't feel it is truly hers. It belongs, she feels, to the town which Amy loved and which loved her in return. What to do? Open a bookstore in one of the vacant buildings in 'downtown' Broken Wheel using Amy's many books as stock, of course.
Certainly, something needs to be done to help Broken Wheel which is dying quickly, but a book store? One problem, now that Amy is dead, is that NO ONE in Broken Wheel reads or wants to read. As a former indie book store owner in a small town, I know that can be a huge problem. Never, fear. Sara is determined!
This book is a great character study for we get to know almost every character in town and Sara works feverishly to connect them to a piece of literature, to introduce them to the wonderful world of reading. This determination on Sara's part and the resistance on the townspeople's part is charmingly humorous. You'll love sad, scruffy George reading Kinsella's books, and Jen being introduced to Idgie because they are both strong women.
It took me a couple of chapters to become involved with the characters, but once that happened, I couldn't put it down. I loved the development of the characters and the rebirth of the town. At times, one storyline or another is drawn out a little too long, but those instances are minimal.
Mixed with the character development is a hint at many issues causing dissection in today's society. There is nothing heavy handed here and the issues are handled beautifully.
Finally, there is Tom. Sara's biggest challenge.
"Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen..."
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was written by Katarina Bivalk, a Swedish author who lives outside of Stockholm and grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Obviously, she had time to do a lot of reading, and we are the beneficiaries of her passion. This is her first novel. I hope it will not be her last.
I recommend The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend to those who love soft, easy reading. It is not quite a chick-lit, but close. Read it and see if any of your favorite books are mentioned, many are.
Published June 18th.
Available at major book stores and online.