The first line of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend describes the main character, Sara, as “so ordinary it was almost scandalous.” Indeed, it is Sara’s plain appearance and simple life that make her journey in Broken Wheel, Iowa, such a delight to follow.
The novel, written by Swedish author Katarina Bivald and translated into English by Alice Menzies, tells the story of Sara, who travels from Sweden to spend time with her American (and much older) pen pal, Amy. Amy and Sara shared a love of books and wrote to each other about the real characters in their lives. But when Sara arrives in Broken Wheel to visit Amy in chapter one, she realizes by the end of that first long day when nobody arrives to pick her up that Amy has died. She intends to turn around and return to Sweden, but the people of Broken Wheel, the same “characters” from Amy’s letters, insist that Sara continue with her visit.
We get to follow Sara’s external and internal journey as a visitor in Broken Wheel, a town that is as destitute as it sounds. Many people are out of jobs and morale is low. In her desire to lift up the town and to honor Amy’s tremendous book collection, Sara opens a temporary bookstore in one of the (many) vacant storefronts in the tiny town. The books Sara recommends and even the way she displays them and the way she is seen reading for long hours at a time in the window of the shop make small changes in the town that add up to something significant. Sara is not the only character transformed by her time in Broken Wheel.
I loved the storytelling, the letters from Amy sprinkled throughout the novel, the quirky small town characters, the love story, and of course all the discussion of books. I highly recommend The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend for a smart, heartwarming read.
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