By Ekta R. Garg
December 30, 2015
Genre: Women’s literature
Rating: Bookmark it!
A young woman travels from Europe to a small Midwestern town to meet her pen pal for the first time—except the woman is no longer there. As she spends time with the people she’s heard about through letters, she begins to realize that maybe her supposedly meaningless life actually does have some meaning after all. Author Katarina Bivald brings small-town life to the forefront in the touching novel The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.
Sara’s life in Sweden doesn’t really amount to much. An avid reader, until recently Sara held a job as a bookstore employee…until the bookstore folded and left her without a job. What it has given her, however, is a healthy stock of books and a deep friendship with Amy, a woman who lives in Iowa.
Their association began with Amy’s simple request for a book, but Sara finds in Amy a kindred spirit and the two begin exchanging letters. Amy fills her letters with details on life in Broken Wheel, Iowa, and through those letters Sara gets to know Broken Wheel’s residents. When Amy extends to Sara an invitation to visit, Sara begins considering it. Her termination from the store provides her with the perfect excuse to get away, spend some time with a good friend, and re-evaluate what she wants to do with her life.
Except that sometime between the time Sara plans her trip and gets on the plane, Amy dies. Sara arrives in Broken Wheel and lands in the middle of a tiny town grieving for a woman everyone cherished. At least Sara can sympathize with them; she adored Amy as well. But what now? How can she stay in a town where she doesn’t know anyone else? Of course, the alternative is to go home. How can she go home to her empty life?
Adding to her predicament, everyone’s devotion to Amy means they keep doing Sara favors and don’t give her the opportunity to repay them. As Sara gets to know Broken Wheel’s residents for herself, she starts to realize that maybe there is a way to repay them. Of course, that way will have to include books. Amy, she knows, would have it no other way. Although on the surface the Broken Wheel community doesn’t strike a person as the type to have any regard for reading, Sara uses the memories Amy shared in her letters and her own experiences to make book recommendations. Before anyone knows it, Sara becomes as much a part of Broken Wheel as it has become of her.
Author Katarina Bivald treats her novel with a lighthearted tone, and the tone functions as a high point of the book—just one of many. In Sara Bivald has created a character that most readers will definitely enjoy. Given the sweetness of the book, it would be incredibly easy for Sara to come across as pathetic or trite. She is neither; instead her depth will enable readers to settle into the novel like snuggling under a warm blanket with a mug of hot chocolate on a winter day.
Bivald’s choice of plot devices may not necessarily surprise readers, but her treatment feels fresh. She manages to offer some unexpected facts about the characters as the book progresses, and even though Amy remains somewhat of a mystery her presence certainly makes a difference. Bivald balances that mystery with the transition of Sara from outsider to one of Broken Wheel’s own.
I highly recommend readers Bookmark The Readers from Broken Wheel Recommend.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)