04 March 2016

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Summary 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.

1. Book about loving books...yes!
2. Books help people overcome problems...yes!
3. Book set in Iowa...YES!

Ok, I was so down for this book when The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was pitched to me.  A book about books! Set in Iowa!  Yes, yes, yes.

And it is a very sweet, feel-good read with hits of 84 Charing Cross Road, Chocolat, and the movie Green Card (which gets an oblique reference). Directionless outsider brings books to a small town and finds love.  It's a basic plot that works.

However, being an Iowan (Cedar County, where the book is set, is directly east of where I live), I have to say that none of the Iowa characters in the book particularly sound like they're from Iowa.  At all.  And Sara sounds exactly like them - she shouldn't, given that she's from Sweden. Maybe that's an artifact of translation but Broken Wheel felt just...generic.  It's like any old one-dimensional small town if you've read about small towns in a book.  There's a town stoic-doesn't-talk-much-love-interest, a town drunk, a town busybody, a town gossip, and a town hard-bitten-straight-talking-lady-who-runs-the-diner.  In addition, a few B-plots got crammed in there without much breathing room.

If you're looking for a book set in "Iowa" - this really isn't it.  The Bridges of Madison County, for all it's faults, feels nailed into its setting.  It feels Iowan.  So does Shoeless Joe.  But Broken Wheel?  Not so much.

But if you're just looking for a nice spring/beach read with a lot of fuzzy, warm feelings about books and reading with a happy ending?  This is your book.

Super side note: Iowa legalized gay marriage in April 2009, before the action of the book begins (there was a throw-away line that bothered me).

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book.

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