The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
by Katarina Bivald
Oh, this is such a sweet, endearing novel! It is cute, creative, and describes the idyllic small town. At times it was a bit schmaltzy (yes, even for me), but it didn’t detract from the book. Bivald created a town that I wanted to visit and characters that felt like friends by the time I left them. The characters were full of quirks, but also had heartfelt and sweet moments throughout. I loved the writing and read through this one in two sittings. I truly escaped into The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and I’m happy I did. I also got a lot of book suggestions while reading, so that’s a huge plus! 😉
Sara is a young, jobless woman from Sweden who has decided to take an extended vacation to visit her pen pal, Amy, in Broken Wheel, Iowa. She and Amy corresponded about all sorts of things, but mainly sent books back and forth to each other. Sara doesn’t leave much behind in the way of family, friends, or connections, so she is happy to escape for a few months. However, when she arrives in Broken Wheel, she learns that Amy has just passed away, and the idyllic town Amy wrote about is nothing more than a small, dying town. While she is struggling with this unanticipated reality, Sara is welcomed by the town and it’s settled that she’ll stay in Amy’s house like Amy would have wanted. At first Sara is hesitant, but before long she decides to give the town a chance and try to enjoy her vacation. What she doesn’t know is that the town council (comprised of the town prude, Caroline, a flustered housewife, Jen, and a gay bar owner, Andy) is trying to set her up with the hot town bachelor, Tom (who happens to be Amy’s nephew). Their first meeting is anything but smooth. Sara doesn’t have a driver’s license, so Tom gives her a lift into town, but is clearly not pleased; while Sara is more interested in reading a book than talking to Tom. Sara is a voracious reader — someone who loves the escape that a good book brings — who worked at a bookstore for 10 years before it closed and subsequently led her to visit the US. Spoilers: as Sara meets more and more of the townsfolk, she realizes that they need to read, and that she is the one to help them. She decides to open up a bookshop for the town with Amy’s vast library. She can’t legally work on her visa, so she decides it is the town’s bookshop and she is merely helping out. As an added bonus she can use it to repay the town’s kindness and plethora of free meals/drinks they’ve been giving her. Sure enough the town is slowly touched by Sara’s work. She is a bright light that everyone is drawn to (even people from the adjoining “big town” of Hope). Sara recommends books to anyone who comes in the shop, creates cleaver sections of books to display, and orders books to fill in any holes. She loves her work, loves the town, and sure enough is falling in love with Tom, who naturally is falling for her, but they both won’t admit it. As Sara’s time in Broken Wheel draws to a close, the town conspires to keep her (as her visa requires her to return home and it’d be difficult for her to come back). They decide that she has to get married and that Tom’s the one to do it! They are both opposed because it isn’t for love (each of them thinking the other one is not in love with them), but get strong armed by the town to do it. However, they are prevented from actually marrying when the police find out (they suspect that there’s immigration fraud). After a lot of hullabaloo, they trick the police into believing that it was actually true love (which of course it really is), and Tom and Sara finally accept and admit to each other that they are in love. Sara is able to stay in the US and keep her bookshop open, which makes everyone happy. There were several side stories, which were heartening and lovely. One of a man named George whose wife walked out on him with is daughter. He became a drunkard, but slowly turned his life around hoping his daughter would someday find him, which she does in the end. All the townsfolk had personalities and stories that gave the book a depth and made it so interesting. I loved that! I also loved that some of the letters Amy wrote Sara are interspersed throughout the book . . . such a delightful touch.
Summing it up: this book was sweet, dynamic, and a simply enchanting read. I definitely recommend it!
All the best, Abbey