It’s Shouty Doris’s first outing of the year and boy is she champing at the bit to interject on today’s book! If you love books that feature books and/or bookstores then you’ll definitely want to prick up your ears for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, which we received from Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley. We are part of the official blog tour, part of which is a sweepstakes asking readers to name their favourite bookstore and win prizes! If you’d like to participate, just read on to the end of this post, where the information will be waiting for you.
Now let’s get into it. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
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.
The first thing you need to know about this book is that it is a translation from the original Swedish. Translations, in my experience, can be a bit iffy if not done well, but I don’t think the typical reader would even notice that English wasn’t the original language of the story if it wasn’t pointed out to them.
I’m just glad the book came fully assembled and not in a flatpack.
I wouldn’t have minded, honestly. Okay, I promise that’s the last Sweden = Ikea reference for the rest of this review.
I make no such promise.
The second thing you should know about this one is that while it is definitely and unequivocally a book about books (and bookstores) it can just as unequivocally be labelled “chick-lit” with all the positive and negative associations that such a label might entail. I was thoroughly drawn in by the concept of travelling across the world to meet up with someone who has just-this-minute kicked the bucket. Oddly though, the loss of Amy (Sara’s penpal) was only explored obliquely, through Sara’s decision to open the bookstore using Amy’s vast personal library as a starting point. Amy’s letters to Sara were also used throughout the book to give a bit of background information on the folk who populate Broken Wheel, which was a nifty touch.
I would have preferred more Sweden and less Broken Wheel, if you want my opinion. I’ve never come across such a depressing bunch of sadsacks as that Broken Wheel lot. If I was in charge of the universe, I would have taken a tyre jack and replaced the whole town long before they could make it into a novel.
I’m trying not to think about the state the universe would be in if you were in charge of it, Doris, but be that as it may, you do raise a good point. At the beginning of the tale, Broken Wheel and its inhabitants are a pretty morose lot, given that the economic future of the town doesn’t look so good. As the story goes on, Sara’s activities in the town rally the residents to start some new projects and adopt some civic pride, but for the first third of the book, forming a bond with the Broken Wheel lot is a bit of a slog.
I loved the description of Sara setting up the bookshop, as it sounds like just the kind of place any self-respecting bookworm would love to inhabit.
I’m surprised she didn’t use the Kallax square shelving system complimented with Tisdag lighting selections and the rounded, cosy couches of the Ektorp series. It would have given the shop a chic, European feel.
Enough with the IKEA references now.
Although for most of the book, I found it completely inexplicable that people – any people, anywhere – would be ambivalent, or openly hostile towards, the opening of a bookshop. This was another reason it took me a while to warm to the inhabitants of Broken Wheel – I could honestly not fathom that a person exists in the world who would not be positively disposed to the sudden appearance of a bookshop in their midst.
Particularly when their town is so depressing and lacklustre to begin with.
Yes, I think we’ve covered that.
There is a romance subplot here that fervent readers of chick-lit will just adore, between Sara and Amy’s nephew, neither of whom are willing participants to begin with. Sara’s voice also generates a some fine moments of dry (and not so dry) observation that were quite amusing.
I quite liked the bit about the gay erotica shelf.
Yes, that was a highlight for me too.
Bivald has peppered the story with references to all sorts of books, from classics to biographies to Bridget Jones, and I’m sure some readers will savour the chance of using these references to add more books to their TBR lists.
Overall, while I found the story a bit slow-going at times, I think this is going to be warmly received by those who are looking for a comfort read, or would like their faith in the power of reading to solve all of society’s ills bolstered.
Now, onto the sweepstakes!
The “Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore Campaign” is inspired by the phenomenal support booksellers have given The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, which was selected as the #1 Indie Next Great Read for January 2016.
Anyone can nominate their favorite bookstore at http://books.sourcebooks.com/readers-recommend-your-bookstore-sweepstakes/. Sourcebooks will award the winning bookstore with a $3,000 prize; two additional bookstores will each receive a $637 prize (the population of Bivald’s fictional Broken Wheel, Iowa). In addition to bookstores receiving prizes, weekly giveaways for those who nominate will be held throughout the campaign. Voting began January 4, and runs until February 19, when the winning bookstores will be announced.
Until next time,
Bruce (and Doris)