Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

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Favourite quotes:

“Never live your life according to the idiots’ rules. Because they’ll drag you down to their level, they’ll win, and you’ll have a damned awful time in the process.”

“There’s always a person for every book. And a book for every person.”

“Feel-good books were ones you could put down with a smile on your face, books that made you think the world was a little crazier, stranger, and more beautiful when you looked up from them.”

 

Sara, a bookseller from Sweden, and Amy, an elderly woman from Broken Wheel, Iowa, might have very little in common.  But the one thing they do share is their love of books. That’s what brought them together in the first place, and that was how they became penpals. After months of correspondence, Amy invites Sara to Iowa to stay for a few weeks and Sara, who until then has led a very lonely life, gladly accepts. However, when she is finally in Broken Wheel, Sara is met with solemn guests at Amy’s funeral. The people of the very small town seem to know all about her, from Amy’s stories. But Sara herself is lost – can she really stay at Amy’s house with no-one but Amy’s hundreds of books for company?

The townspeople are initially wary of the newcomer, and especially of her ludicrous ideas to help everyone out. And when Sara announces that since Broken Wheel doesn’t have a bookstore, she’s going to open one – well, everyone is flabbergasted to say the least. How can a Swedish citizen with a tourist visa open a bookstore in America? In a town where few people actually read books? And even if she does, who is going to run it when her visa expires?

 

I confess – when I got the Kindle sample of “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend”, I really liked where it was going, but I wasn’t pleased with the English translation. Translation is an art and some languages translate better to certain languages than others. That was, in my opinion, the case with Stieg Larsson’s trilogy – I enjoyed the Russian translation a lot more than the English one. And the same is with “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend”. I found a lovely hardcover Russian edition, with the title translated as “Give Them a Chance”, and I was right to make that choice.

This is not an adventure story – not in the traditional sense, anyway. One can say that Sara’s sheltered life juxtaposed against her experiences in America certainly makes it sound like she’d been on the greatest adventure of her life. And she has! The touching and funny interactions with the quintessential small-town Americans of Broken Wheel, their clumsy attempts at matchmaking, and Sara’s own brave venture of setting up a bookstore with no working visa are interwoven into a tale that reminds us that real-life adventures are just as exciting as the ones books take us on. And if books are the very thing that thrusts us into real-life adventures – well, that’s every bookworm’s dream!

Indeed, this cozy novel is in its essence, a love letter to literature and bookstores. The bookstore that Sara sets up is a baffling concept to the people of Broken Wheel, but Sara (and I) believes that there is a book out there for everyone – be it “Eragon”, “Bridget Jones’ Diary” or “Fried Green Tomatoes”. I believe that “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” would make a terrific gift to any lover of books. My rating is 8/10.

 

Recommendations:

You might like “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” if you liked:

“The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George;

“Fried Green Tomatoes” by Fanny Flang;

“A Novel Bookstore” by Laurence Cosse.

 

Have you read “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend”? What are your favourite books about books? Leave me a comment and don’t forget to check out my Etsy charity shop before you go!

 

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