Monday, 18 January 2016

'The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend' by Katarina Bivald: A Book Review

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I've never had a pen pal, or even a legit friend whom I didn't know in real life (not including the time I was a major Winx Club fangirl on the internet). But I can imagine the excitement of opening up a letter from my hypothetical bookworm friend who lives a thousand miles away, and the anticipation of a hundred more such letters. And then, finally, opening up the fated letter inviting me to stay with that friend for a few months so we can discuss Elizabeth and Darcy and Snape vs. James and the ethicality of the Hunger Games in person with perhaps a nice cup of tea!

I can also imagine the horror when I go on said visit to find my bookworm friend dead.

That's exactly what happens to Sara, a Swedish book lover whose life in her hometown is a dreary, dull nightmare. But how can she spend her vacation in Broken Wheel, Iowa, when the friend she was coming to visit is now dead?

Then again, there are other things of interest in Broken Wheel, like the hundreds of books Amy has left behind in her wake. The hustle and bustle of small town life, a life that Sara has never experienced. The new friends she's about to make, friends varying in age and gender and even sexuality. And, of course, the strong but silent Tom whom Sara can't quite figure out.

This book had a pretty slow start. It's a lengthy book for chick lit (around 400 pages on Kindle), and it's not until the first quarter that Sara finally decides to open a bookstore in Amy's memory. That's when the story picks up some pace and actually becomes interesting.

I loved the diverse characters portrayed in this book: you have the morally strict Christian, the tough-girl-who-can-bake-really-well diner owner, the sweet recovering alcoholic, the hardworking hero, the funny gay couple... and, of course, the adorkable bookworm.

In books, people were charming and friendly, and life followed certain set patterns. If a person dreamed of doing something, then you could be almost certain that, by the end of the book, they would almost certainly be doing that very thing. And they would find someone to do it with. In the real world, you could be almost certain that person would end up doing absolutely anything other than what they had dreamed of. 

I hadn't expected this to turn into a romance, honestly speaking, and that's because it isn't really a romance. There's humour, family drama and lessons of friendship, and only a few mentions of romantic entanglements here and there. That's good, because that makes this book a well-rounded candidate. Not to mention a hilarious, well-rounded candidate. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments in this book, and I think some of the credit ought to go to the translator of this edition, because bringing humour from one language to another can get very tricky.
She wondered whether she should offer him coffee. What exactly were the rules of hospitality when you were a nonpaying guest in a dead woman's house?

I've always loved books about books, Fangirl being a good example. For me, it's important to be able to relate to some aspect of the book, if not the main character, and Readers of Broken Wheel does it for me. This is the perfect book to read if you're someone who appreciates all kinds of books, because that's the kind of reader Sara is. And she knows, better than anyone else, that books of all genres can be equally good. None is better than the other.
Why would anyone prefer banknotes to books? A little bit of paper with a pathetic quote about God and a picture of a politican over reams of paper with fantastic stories printed on them?
"Can you smell it? The scent of new books. Unread adventures. Friends you haven't met yet, hours of magical escapism awaiting you."
There are a few shortcomings to this book: the slow pace, the many scenes and dialogues which could have been edited, the plot twist at the end of the book, the ending of the book itself, which was a little too syrupy-sweet for me... but overall, I'd say this book won my heart. I turned the last page (metaphorically - I have a Kindle, remember?) with a cross between a sob and a giggle, both happy and sad that the book had ended.

I'm going to go with 4 stars out of 5 for this one.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a must-have for all readers who claim to be serious bookaholics. Plus, look at that gorgeous blue cover!

This book released on January 1st, 2016, so you can find it at your local bookstore or ebook library. Do pick it up and let me know what you think. Were you also shipping Tom and Sara as much as I was?

Bye! :)

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