Hi everyone. I hope you’re have a great October. What is it about October? It just gets me in a good mood.
Today I’m here with a review of a book I have wanted to read for a while. I even got it from the library twice but had to return it before I read it. I was determined not to let the opportunity go by this time. And I had pretty high expectations.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a novel about books. It’s a book that makes you want to read it snuggled up in your PJs with a cup of hot chocolate and a roaring fire.
- Every time the characters discuss or recommend or buy a book, I smiled. The bookish elements of this book are lovely and remind me of The Little Paris Bookshop.
- Honestly, I do not want to live in Broken Wheel. I don’t even really want to visit. It’s too small and too weird for me. I wanted to like it. But I just couldn’t see myself there.
- I want to own a bookshop and read all day long. But I don’t I could live in such a tiny town.
- The different perspectives in the novel were fun and helped give useful background on different characters. But sometimes they also felt disjointed–taking us away (with no obvious reason) from the main story with Sara and the bookshop.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald follows the story of Sara–a Swedish woman who comes to tiny Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet her long time pen pal, Amy. But when she arrives, Amy is dead and the funeral is just ending. The town convinces Sara to stay in Amy’s house, where she discovers Amy’s book collection and decides to open a bookstore in town with those books. The townspeople aren’t sure what to make of Sara or her bookshop. But they are willing to rally around the shop to put Broken Wheel back on the map and to do just about anything to keep Sara in Broken Wheel.
I enjoy Sara’s character because she is a true bookworm and she always has been. I love that she grew up reading, worked in a bookshop, and wrote to a stranger about books. It’s so nerdy–and reminds me of myself 🙂 Sara is looking for a place to call home. She wants to fit in and do something meaningful with life (in addition to reading which I think is quite meaningful). I like how excited Sara gets and how invested she becomes in the bookstore and in the town. But I do wish she had a bit more self confidence. She is easily down on herself and thinks she isn’t doing enough to give back or with her life.
My favorite character was easily Amy. I loved her letters because we got to know her a bit even though she died before the story really begins. Not only did Amy love books, but she has a unique and beautiful way of writing about them. Her letters are full of warmth, personality, and a deep passion for books. I love that. I like to think that Amy was there the whole time, watching and smiling as Sara shared her book collection with the world. My one request is to know more about Amy. Specifically, how did she die?
One of my favorite quotes from Amy:
“Books or people, you ask. It’s a difficult choice. …. I can’t for the life of me explain why I have the bad sense to prefer people. If you went purely by numbers, then books would win hands down. I’ve loved maybe a handful of people in my entire life, compared with tens or maybe hundreds of books (and here I’m counting only those books I’ve really loved, the kind that make you happy just to look at them, that make you smile regardless of what else is happening in your life, that you always turn back to like an old friend and can remember exactly when you first “met” them….) But that handful of people you love…they’re surely worth just as much as all those books.”
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, page 145
I haven’t read many novels set in small town America. But I enjoyed this. Bivald creates a quirky and likable town full of the most ridiculous characters. We have such ridiculous group of people in this town from Andy running the bar to Grace (not actually christened Grace) to snobby Christian Caroline. They are all right out of a stereotypical small-town movie. Sometimes I thought they were funny, sometimes ridiculous, and sometimes just plain weird. Initially, I kept forgetting the connections between them. I got better at keeping them all straight as I got further into the story. I liked how they rallied around Sara to get her to stay. But I thought they got a bit crazy and unrealistic at the end.
Speaking of the ending, I’m not sure I like it. Yes, Sara gets to stay which is exciting. Yes, the town has accepted her. And she even gets the man. But it all comes together too quickly. There were pieces left unconnected or I didn’t quite understand how we got from A to B. For example, I wasn’t sure Sara and Tom even liked each other. But suddenly they totally did! The ending was rushed. It seemed like things couldn’t work out and Sara would have to go home (or to jail) but then it all sorted out quite neatly.
The biggest problem for me in this novel was the lack of focus as it went on. The beginning is fantastic–focused on books and the pen pals. But the last third of the book was a bit disjointed for me. We have the Caroline and Josh relationship and George with his daughter and Grace deciding if she is going to be helpful. I can appreciate that each of the characters in tiny Broken Wheel is changed because Sara comes and opens the bookstore. But some of those changes were a bit of a stretch for me. And I really wanted more change. I wanted more focus on books. I wanted the town to start actually reading more and having a book club or something. Perhaps that was unrealistic, but I was still a bit disappointed by the broader stories.
Certainly, the best element of this novel is it’s obsession with books. My favorites scenes took place in the bookshop with Sara sorting the shelves or in Amy’s house exploring her collection. I can totally relate to Sara being watched while reading and not knowing it (I can’t count the number of times my husband has tried to get my attention and can’t while I’m reading). For me, the books saved this novel for me. They made it clever, cozy, and likable. What book lover doesn’t appreciate a book about books?
I have to admit, this book has some absolutely beautiful quotes about books, most of them from Amy.
“The real crime of these lists isn’t that they leave deserving books off them, but that they make people see fantastic literary adventures as obligations.”
“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.”
“I’ve always thought that books have some kind of healing power”
“Can you smell it? The scent of new books. Unread adventures. Friends you haven’t met yet, hours of magical escapism awaiting you.”
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, pages 82, 151, 199, 303
While I enjoyed the bookish tone of this novel, my expectations were a bit too high. This is more of a novel about people and some books rather than a novel about books and some people. This is a lighthearted and fun story.