Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The strange woman standing on Hope's main street was so ordinary it was almost scandalous. ~ Opening of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend



The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by by Katarina Bivald
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2016
Fiction; 400 pgs
Source: NetGalley

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. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

This book has gotten quite a few mixed reviews. I happened to really like it. I loved the bookish references, could completely relate to the main character, Sara, and had such a fun time visiting with and getting to know the people of Broken Wheel. It is a light-hearted read, often funny, and a bit on the sentimental side.

I think my favorite scene in the novel was when the entire town stood outside the bookshop watching Sara read. For over five hours. Sara had not even noticed. Have you ever been in a reading trance like that, so lost in a book you block out everything around you? I have. I'm not sure it's been for over 5 hours, but still, I have been there.

My only beef with the novel, really, is the fact that if you just happen to not know much of anything about Jane Eyre, well, Bivald spoils the book nearly in its entirety. My husband says it does not matter--given the book is 168 old. (Do spoilers have an expiration date?). She has a lot to say about Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe too, but that didn't bother me quite as much.

I loved the town people of Broken Wheel from outcast Grace to the recovering alcoholic George, the proper-get-things-done Caroline to Andy and Carl, the local bar owners. I liked Tom too, his perseverance and stoicism. Amy was perhaps my favorite character who we only get to know through letters. (How I miss my pen palling days!) The way everyone came together to help each other, for each other, and to make Sara feel welcome was heartwarming--the way I wish it could be in the real world. Could the characters have been better fleshed out? Certainly, but this wasn't something that bothered me as I read. I simply found myself caught up in this improbable and yet delightful story.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a tribute to reading and readers and also to friendship and the strength of community. While maybe too idyllic at times, even with their various troubles, some of which were quite serious (a dying community, lack of jobs, poverty, alcoholism), I did not mind. I found Bivald's novel to be an enjoyable read--not too serious, funny, and a book that I finished with a big smile on my face.

To learn more about Katarina Bivald and her work, please visit the author's websiteShe can also be found on Goodreads.

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© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

24 comments:

  1. The reviews I've read so far are good and I'm glad to see you enjoyed it as well. Will have to check this out.

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    1. Melody - It was such a fun book to read. I highly recommend it.

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  2. I loved The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society so this does appeal to me a lot. It sounds like it's got the same intimate atmosphere.

    The old book spoiler question's a difficult one. There's a point in that it's old but still you hope people can choose whether to read a classic without knowledge of it, as people surely would have when it was first released.

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    1. I haven't yet read The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, but if it's anything like this one, I am sure I will love it.

      I loved all the book references made in this book--and hopefully any spoilers won't ruin the classics for people. It was just my small little quibble, I imagine, wit the book.

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  3. I'm planning on reading this one soon. I do have an advance copy. Anyway, a book that begins with a reference to Alcott's AN OLD FASHIONED GIRL, a favorite from my childhood, is tops in my book. We'll see how the rest goes. And I'm a little sad about the spoiler thing, but I guess a lot of people know about JANE EYRE and probably FRIED GREEN TOMATOES as well.

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    1. Kay - I hope you enjoy it when you read it, Kay! I think the references to Fried Green Tomatoes would encourage someone to read that one (and well they should--such a good book!). I am probably making more of the Jane Eyre spoiler issue than I really should. It's minor in the scheme of things.

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  4. I've read Jane Eyre so the spoilers probably wouldn't bother me.

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    1. Kathy - Then definitely give this one a go! Fortunately, I had read Jane Eyre already too. :-)

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  5. I had my eye on this one over at NetGalley, it sounds good. I won't read it until after I've read Jane Eyre then, I don't want spoilers. Great post, glad you enjoyed this one!

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    1. Naida - You can always skim over the Jane Eyre references. :-)

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  6. I've been on the fence about this one because the reviews have been so mixed but I do think I would enjoy it. I can definitely relate to the reading trance! The Jane Eyre spoilers is definitely an issue. In some ways I agree with your husband because the book is such a part of history BUT the ending of Jane Eyre is so shocking it seems a shame to ruin it no matter how old the book is.

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    1. Katherine - I think you would like this one too. It's one that should not be taken too seriously, I think. And yet I found it impossible not to grow attached to the characters.

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  7. What a great review! I love how you describe Tom: "perseverance and stoicism" sums him up perfectly. And it never occurred to me that the discussions of Jane Eyre were spoilers, but you're right. (Although I think your husband is right, too; spoilers for books that old and well-known are excusable.)

    I loved that reading scene too! And yes, I can relate. I used to get so lost in books that my mom could call me to dinner and I wouldn't even hear her. Being a mother myself taught me to leave enough awareness of the real world that I rarely get that completely lost in books these days -- in a way, I kind of miss it.

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    1. Lark - I am glad you enjoyed this book too. It's rare I completely block out what's around me when I'm reading nowadays--likely as you said because we can't with kids around--but it's happened at least once in the last year that I can remember. It took me quite by surprise.

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  8. That's a great point you raise about spoilers from books that are decades old. On the one hand, I love books like this one that discuss other books, even at spoiler levels. But on the other hand, I like to be told beforehand that there are spoilers of Book X in Book Y. That is one of the reasons why I haven't yet read Reading Lolita in Tehran, because it has spoilers about books I want to read.

    As for this book, I also have the review copy but I haven't yet read it. I need to pick it up soon.

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    1. Athira - I loved the bookish references in this one. It may be just me that will be bothered by the Jane Eyre spoilers--it really is only a minor quibble--as I really enjoyed the book.

      I've wanted to go back and read Reading Lolita in Tehran after reading the books mentioned in that one, but I haven't managed to get through them all yet. I wonder sometimes if I missed something because I hadn't read them all when I read it.

      I hope you enjoy this one when you do read it!

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  9. Oh, no! It spoils Jane Eyre? Well, I can see your husband's point about it being such an old novel anyway, but still! Jane Eyre is one of my favorites.

    Well, I'm glad to hear you liked Broken Wheel overall. I got it from NetGalley, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. I can't resist a story about books/bookstores/bookworms.

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    1. Diana - It does. It might not bother you at all--hopefully it won't. I really enjoyed this one otherwise and hope you will too when you get to it.

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  10. This sounds good! You wrote an excellent review which makes me want to read it especially since we're moving to Iowa. I don't really mind about Jane Eyre since I've read it many years ago. Does it mostly get read in high school these days? That's where I read it.

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    1. Jan - Thank you! I hope you enjoy it if you do read it! I love Jane Eyre; I just re-read it last year and it was every bit as good as all the other times I've read it. I think many people are first introduced to the book in high school or college.

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  11. I think I'm going to have to give this one a chance!

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    1. Lisa - I really liked it and hope you will to if you decide to read it.

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  12. That scene of them all watching Sarah read was great. I had some mixed feelings about this book but like you, I also really liked Amy best which is so weird given how she's not even there! Glad you enjoyed this one!

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    1. Iliana - Yes, it is weird we liked Amy best. I felt like we got a good idea of the kind of person she was though through her letters and how other people in town felt about her.

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