Thank You to Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with an advanced copy of Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - Sara loves books and until recently, she worked at a bookstore in Sweden. When her store closes and she finds herself at a career crossroads, she decides to take a summer trip to America. Sara had spent years corresponding and sharing books, with her friend Amy, a resident of Broken Wheel, Iowa. Amy has invited Sara to be her house guest, for as long as she cares to visit.
When Sara arrives, she finds out that Amy has died a few days earlier. Amy had lived alone and the town makes the collective decision to allow Sara to stay in the house, rent free. Not only does she not have to pay rent, but the people of the town won't let her pay for anything. In efforts to repay the town, Sara comes up with the idea to use an abandoned store to open a bookshop, where she will sell Amy's enormous book collection for the benefit of Broken Wheel.
Broken Wheel is not a big town, nor is it one populated with readers. It seems that this bookstore will be a failure, but that's because people have underestimated the impact that their visitor is making on their fractured town. The question soon arises, who needs who more? Does Broken Wheel need Sara, or does Sara need Broken Wheel?
LIKE- I was originally drawn to this book, because Bivald is a Swedish author. My step-children are Swedish and when possible, I like to learn about their culture. Although the story is set in America, it does have Swedish touches, with the main character being from Sweden. I believe Broken Wheel is a fictional town, but it is set in a part of Iowa where the maternal side of my family is from, another aspect of the book that drew me to read it.
Sara is a plucky character and she loves books. The story is absolutely filled with book references, most of which I got, but a few eluded me. It's so filled with these references, that I think the story would not appeal to non-book lovers. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a book-geek paradise.
The town of Broken Wheel is a bit like the Gilmore Girl's town of Stars Hollow, but a economically depressed version. Even with its unemployment and boarded-up main street, this is a fictional town that I wish that I lived in, because of its strong sense of community. It doesn't ring true to any town that I've ever visited, but it makes me wistful, hoping that places like this really do exist. This dream town is part of the pleasure of reading Bivald's story.
DISLIKE- The last third of the story is odd. There is a plot line where the town tries to get Sara to marry a fellow resident, so that she will get her VISA. This outrageous adventure distracts from the deeper issues.
RECOMMEND- Yes. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a relatively light, sweet story. It will require a hefty dose of suspension of disbelief, but it's filled with memorable characters and it gave me the "warm fuzzies". As a bonus, Bivald even writes in a line about all of the Swedish books being so dark and depressing...The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend totally bucks that stereotype.