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Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

June 9, 2015

9781492623441-300.jpgThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Katarina Bivald
Sourcebooks, January 2016
Advance Reader Copy from BEA

An odd but charming premise (bookish young woman leaves Sweden and heads to a small Iowa town, sight unseen to meet her pen pal) sends a young woman all the way to an odd, but charming small town in Iowa. Where she discovers that the pen pal she intended to visit has died… and the entire town sort of adopts and assimilates her, trying to charm her although they find her, and her bookishness, rather odd. Broken Wheel is not a town of readers, you see. Apart from the (now-deceased) Amy, and the shy, awkward Swedish newcomer, who honestly prefers books to people most of the time.

But… friendships are forged. Books are discussed. I felt for Sara, seeking solace in books, and feeling curious and perplexed and frustrated, trying to connect with a town of avowed nonreaders, the only way she knows how- through books. I’ve daydreamed since I was a kid about running a small, cozy bookstore, recommending books to people who come in, having shelves designated for Books With Happy Endings When You Need Them… comfy chairs and places to read. I know that this kind of dream is a vicarious one for me, unless I can recruit a business manager. I’m good at balancing books on shelves and in piles… Balancing the fiscal books? Not so much. So picturing Sara’s cozy little bookstore in my mind was vicariously cozy and nice.

This is absolutely not the book to read if you’re feeling at all cynical. There are shades of books like Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe (which gets a nod in the text) in how the small town story is constructed. And yes, the characters and the narrative are leaning more heavily on emotional connection to let the story move forward at a meditative pace. I can confirm that this is a good book to read on a rainy afternoon. And I’m glad that, for all the fact that the plot hinges on a death, various losses, and emotional plot points rather than startling events, there was absolutely no sense of constructed emotional manipulation. I appreciate that.

Would this reader of a major, often cynical metropolis, recommend The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend? I’d give that a solid maybe. You have to be in the mood to be charmed, by a slower-paced, slightly muted emotional story. It has its delightfully odd moments… even if a book like this isn’t in my usual genre-reading, plot-driven wheelhouse.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 10, 2015 7:22 am

    I’m intrigued and in return I suggest The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson.

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