I love books. I love bookstores. I love books about bookstores. I’ve just finished a cute story about a fictional broken down town called Broken Wheel in Iowa. Yes, it was named after a broken covered wagon wheel that caused some pioneers to stop and eventually settle in this flatland soon to be covered in corn rows. This debut novel entitled The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is written by Swedish writer Katarina Bivald. One of the main characters is also Swedish, Sara Lindqvist, a young book nerd who recently lost her job in a bookstore in Sweden. She has just landed in Iowa to finally meet her book-loving pen pal, an elderly lady name Amy Harris. Sara finally arrives at Amy’s house as the last of Amy’s funeral crowd is leaving. What- Amy has died?? Yet, the folks of Broken Wheel have been expecting Sara to arrive. They embrace her in their close knit community, and she experiences a love and an acceptance she didn’t have at home. Thus begins the story of Sara opening the first bookstore in Broken Wheel using all of Amy’s books. It’s a funny madcap plot for two reasons. First off, Sara is on a two month tourist visa to the US and is forbidden to work, and the whole town wants Sara and Tom, Amy’s nephew to fall in love, an idea to which they are definitely opposed or are they….?
The whole community and Tom help Sara open up Oak Tree Bookstore even though they try to tell her that Broken Wheel is a dying community, plus no one reads in Broken Wheel anyway. But Sara’s enthusiasm is contagious and wins over the most reluctant people. Sara has a firm and clear vision of what she wants this bookstore to look like. “The deep sunshine-yellow counter was the first thing you see when you entered the shop. Sara thought that it made it seem like you were stepping into some kind of magical shop. What, she asked herself, wasn’t possible with a yellow counter?” Tells you a lot about Sara, doesn’t it?
Sara loves paperbacks and loves the idea that Penguin began publishing small paperbacks in 1935, and it started the Armed Forces Book Club so that during World War 2 soldiers could have little paperbacks to slip into their pockets. “…it said something about the power of books. Not that they could somehow lessen the pain of war when someone beloved had died or create world peace or anything like that. But Sara couldn’t help thinking that in war, as in life, boredom was one of the greatest problems, a slow, relentless wearing down. Nothing dramatic, just a gradual erosion of a person’s energy and lust for life. So what could be better than a book? And a book that you could fit into your jacket pocket at that.” Tells you a lot about Sara, doesn’t it? How can you not love her?
Speaking of love, there is a lot of love going around in Broken Wheel. To be a dying broken down community, there are deep friendships, budding romances and forgiveness going all around. To doesn’t feel like a broken down town after Sara arrives and falls in love with Tom- I mean falls in love with Broken Wheel!