The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Katarina Bivald (T: Swedish-English by Alice Menzies)
Sara Lindqvist, a bookstore clerk from Sweden, travels to rural Iowa to visit her pen pal, Amy Harris. Unfortunately for Sara, she arrives just as Amy’s funeral is ending. Unsure what to do with her two-month-long visa, Sara is collectively taken in by the town of Broken Wheel, where she slowly comes to know everyone she has only heard about through Amy’s letters.
This book has many high ratings, and I have heard many people discuss it and how much they loved it. I don’t think it lived up to the hype, but I did enjoy it.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend should have some kind of warning label attached, however, due to the spoilers for other books that are contained in its pages. Yes, Sara and Amy are huge book lovers and so book talk is to be expected, but Bivald’s book contains huge spoilers for works such as Pride and Prejudice, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Little Women, To Kill A Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre, and The Horse Whisperer (book and film) to name a few. Having read most of these, the spoilers didn’t phase me so much, but I feel truly terrible for those readers who have had all of these wonderful stories ruined for them without warning. I would also like to note the author’s fictional adherence to some laws, yet complete ignoring of others. A town cannot just open a bookstore without doing any paperwork. They just can’t. Sara even says she wouldn’t be able to open one in Sweden for a host of reasons, but these reasons apparently cease to apply at the town line of Broken Wheel.
That being said, the translation is impeccable. The story itself takes around fifty pages before it actually gets interesting at all, but once things start rolling it’s quite a fun ride. Going into the book I didn’t have any background beyond Amy’s death, Sara’s arrival, and that a bookstore was somehow involved. Let me tell you, those the bare essentials. So bare, in fact, that they may be almost meaningless. This book is not really about a bookstore. Sure, everything revolves around said establishment, but only because Sara happens to be there. No, the real story is the town, the people’s who’s lives have almost lost meaning rising up like flowers in the spring, and how every single tiny thing we do can change the world around us. Oh, and of course there’s unrequited love and complicated romances and diversity galore.
Overall I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I certainly didn’t expect a fluffy romance crossed with a comeback story, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. The beginning was boring, but the ending had me in tears. At the time of writing, I’ve only been done with the book for about 10 hours, so things are a little jumbled. Ah, well, maybe it’s just one of those things you’ll have to read for yourself.
HHC Rating: 3.75 stars