I received this e-Arc from NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: January 1st, 2016
Synopsis: Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…
Broken Wheel Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who has traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal. When she arrives however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor–not much else to do in a small town that’s almost beyond repair. They just never imagined she’d start a bookstore. Or that books would bring them together–and change everything.
There’s a book for every person…and a person for every book.
Others might have found themselves stuck in a tired, old high school in Haninge, but had been a geisha in Japan, walked along China’s last empress through the claustrophobic, closed off rooms of the Forbidden City, grown up with Anne and the others in Green Gables, gone through her fair share of murder, and love and lost over and over again.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is already an international bestseller and after reading this utterly charming book, I understand why.
First of all, let me warn you there’s a few elements in this book that may have you rolling your eyes, or asking “Seriously?!” But trust me. Put those feelings on the backburner, because the rest of the story with it’s captivating plot and quirky characters are worth it!
The first eye-rolling moment comes right at the beginning when Swedish bookworm Sara Lindquist who has played it safe her entire life, finds herself out of work after the small bookshop that she’s worked for many years, goes out of business. She shocks her family when she decides to travel to Broken Wheel Iowa to visit pen-pal and fellow Bibliophile Amy Harris. Once you get past that “She did what?” moment, Sara and the inhabitants of this small dusty town–that has never really seen better days–will mesmerize you until the very last page. I have to admit that part of the attraction for me was that I completely identified with Sara. She’s quiet and unassuming, and people tend to overlook her. She literally lives through her books. Her only friend is Amy who she’s never met. She’s devastated when she embarks on her grand adventure, only to find once she’s arrived that her kindred spirit has passed away. But then something strange happens. The quirky folks of Broken Wheel sort of adopt her, even to the extent of not letting her pay for anything. Sara, in turn winds up adopting them as well and comes up with the idea of opening a small bookstore using her’s and Amy’s collections as stock. The only problem is that no one besides Sara understands the magical appeal of books, so she is forced to come up with some creative ploys to attract these reluctant readers into her store. This results in quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. There’s even a sweet little romance here as well which for a change isn’t filled with large amounts of drama and angst.
You’ll also hear from Amy through her handwritten letters to Sara. It’s through this detailed correspondence that you realize Amy was the glue that held this fading community together. Once she’s gone they’re lost and bewildered. But then this stranger from halfway around the world with all her odd ideas enters the picture and the healing begins.
Despite it’s overall lighthearted tone, the story does tackle a few weightier issues including: religion, racism, and homophobia. The author does this in a thoughtful manner, yet never lets them overtake her story. This is small town America with all it’s strengths and weaknesses.
By the end of the story, while Sara has made quite an impact on Broken Wheel, she finds herself transformed as well. For the first time she sees that there’s a whole world outside of the ones she’s lived in through her books. Going on this journey with her is pure, unadulterated joy.
If you love books about not only the love of books, but self discovery, recovery, and small town America, I urge you to read this. Particularly if you’re a fan of 84 Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff, and The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. The only disappointment you’ll feel is when the story is over. I guarantee you’ll be as reluctant to leave Sara and the small dusty town of Broken Wheel as I was.