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Monday, January 04, 2016

See what The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend for a good literary time

When Sara Lindqvist arrives from Sweden to visit her American pen pal Amy in the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa, the first surprise that she gets is that her friend has passed away. Upon discovering her presence, the townsfolk insist that Sara spend her planned two month vacation at Amy's house, just as Amy would've wanted.

Having no better plans, Sara accepts this strange arrangement but before long, decides upon the proper way to repay her "hosts", who refuse to let her use any of her money for anything, including rent.

All of this leads to the set-up for Katarina Bivald's debut novel, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, in which Sara opens up a used bookstore in the dying out town, using Amy's home library as the start up stock. Sara and Amy became long distance friends due to book sharing over the internet and their correspondence lead to this trip. With Sara being a now unemployed bookseller, having this chance to share the one true joy in her life with those who knew Amy in person feels like a bibliophile blessing:

The citizens of Broken Wheel are not sure what to make of this idea but do let Sara go through with it, as Amy did have an abandoned store front as part of her property.

Once the shop,called The Oak Tree Bookstore, is ready for business, locals such as Jen, the overly cheerful writer of the town's newsletter, are eager to see it do well while others are much more cautious about it's prospects.

 Sara is happy just to be doing something useful, even if things are slow at first, and it's not long before her store begins to stir up the sleepy town:

From firing up a rivalry with the more prosperous nearby town of Hope to becoming an unexpected tourist attraction, Sara and The Oak Tree Bookstore unintentionally turn into focal points that all of Broken Wheel become emotionally invested in.

Part of that is due to some of Sara's book suggestions for people such as George, who misses his daughter and learns more about what women want by reading Bridget Jones, Caroline, whose straight laced world view is challenged by a book of gay erotica and Grace, the seemingly tough as nails diner owner who finds a true soulmate in the pages of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, soon enough sharing her battle cry of "Towanda!":

All too soon, Sara's travel visa is about to expire and the popular solution to that problem is to have Sara get married, preferably to Tom, Amy's nephew.

Tom and Sara have a bit of a relationship, based upon their mutual resistance to being set up by the town as an ideal couple. However much they want to say no to this potentially disastrous scheme, it becomes increasing hard to do so, as hard as examining their real feelings for each other.

As Sara and Broken Wheel turn to the final page of their story, will they find that happy ending or experience a more realistic finale?

I read this book(via review copy) over the Christmas holidays and it was a real treat to behold. Author Katarina Bivald happens to be a part time book seller in her native country of Sweden(the novel is translated for the US by Alice Menzies) and that knowledge clearly shows as her descriptions of many beloved titles and opinions about books and authors add some snappy spark to her leading lady.

She also has a flair for weaving together a seemingly simple narrative into a heartfelt intricate pattern of people and their lives as enhanced by books. Bivald's charming yet never cloying tale proves that reading with friends is an universal theme and that Sweden's literary scene has more to offer than the flurry of thrillers we've seen from that corner of the world.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend will be available at a bookseller near you by January 16 and this is a book that book lovers should relish with true and utter delight.

This fabulous fish out of water story is right up there with the likes of Cold Comfort Farm as a fine example of what wonderful trouble a book smart outsider can bring to a batch of oddly engaging new friends:

1 comment:

JaneGS said...

I enjoy books about books and bookstores--going to have to read The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. Also, I remember loving book and movie of Fried Green Tomatoes--may have to reread that one on of these days.