The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Katarina Bivald

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This is not my usual type of book; by a Swedish writer and set in America. But it’s about BOOKS!

The setting is a fairly small, fairly hopeless town in Iowa. The theme is the power of books to  enhance and even change lives, as demonstrated (arguably) by the narrative of the novel.

Sara leaves her disappointing life in Sweden where she has been working in a now defunct bookshop to visit her pen pal Amy. They have been exchanging letters and books for some time, and Amy has been writing so vividly about the town and its inhabitants that Sara feels that she will recognise them. However, when Sara actually arrives in Broken Wheel, she discovers that Amy has just died. She is pressed to stay, and recognises the people and situations that Amy has described. She is beginning to despair, even running out of the books that she has brought with her,  until she discovers Amy’s collection of well loved books and realises that she could perhaps help some of the frustrated and fed up people she sees around her. She asks for help to open a bookshop, that will sell, lend or generally supply the right book for anyone who ventures into the shop.

As you might guess, a transformation in many lives is effected, as romance and the rebuilding of relationships begins. The town also changes as Sara and the bookshop becomes the focus of attention. There are some dramatic moments, and some very funny developments which I enjoyed. There is a little too much romance, too much wish fulfillment for my taste, but it ends on a generally satisfactory note. I am not sure which market this book is aiming for, as it is a little to quirky for a straight romance, and perhaps lacks focus. It is certainly worth a read, as the characters are engaging (look out for the gun toting Grace!) and Sara’s sadness at a life which she does not want to return to is touching. Tom and George get a little muddled in my mind, but Amy’s letters are all too brief set irregularly in the text. I was not sure that they really achieved the picture that they are said to have done in Sara’s mind to urge her visit. This is a good, engaging book, with some unexpected twists which seems to be doing well in this bestseller lists. I can imagine that there will be a film of this at some point, but it will have to be sharpened up first. I was also surprised by how many books mentioned are British! (Bridget Jones?) It is an interesting novel about the power of books and I may well suggest it for my new book group (still in the arranging stage!).

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