Narrator: Fiona Hardingham, Lorelei King
Published by Random House Audio on January 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, Romance
Length: 12 hrs. 10 mins.
A debut novel to charm all listeners that shows beyond all doubt that it's books, along with love, that make the world go round.
It all began with a correspondence between two quite different women: 28-year-old Sara from Haninge, Sweden, and 65-year-old Amy from the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. After years of exchanging books, letters, and thoughts on the meaning of literature and life, Sara, mousy, disheveled, who has never been anywhere in her life - has really lived only for her work in a beloved bookshop, which has just closed its doors for the last time - bravely decides to accept her unknown friend's invitation to visit. But when she arrives, she finds her house empty, the funeral guests just heading home....
Sara finds herself alone. And what choice do the inhabitants of Broken Wheel have but to take care of their bewildered tourist? And what choice does Sara have, faced with a town where nobody reads and her desire to honour her friend, but to set up the perfect bookshop with all the books she and Amy shared - from Yann Martel's Life of Pi to Iris Murdoch and Jo Nesbo, to Bridget Jones and Doug Coupland's All Families Are Psychotic to Little House on the Prairie? And then watch as the townsfolk are, one by one, transformed in unexpected ways....
In the glorious tradition of 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club, Jane Austen, and movies such as You've Got Mail and Love Actually, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a big-hearted, witty book about books, friendship, love - and always being open to the unexpected.
Books about books are so attractive to me as a reader so I couldn’t help but want to read Katarina Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. In this book we follow the adventures of Sara, a Swedish bookseller who gets a whole Iowa town reading, and finds friendship, love and purpose in the process.
Sara Lindqvist leaves Sweden to visit her bookish pen pal Amy Harris in Broken Wheel, Iowa. They have bonded over books through their letters and literary care packages and have plans for a lovely visit. But, when Sara arrives in Iowa, she finds her friend has died. The town takes Sara in, as Amy would have wanted, driving her around and not letting her pay for anything. To make the most of her time Sara decides to open up a bookshop as a tribute to Amy and a gift to the town. (They don’t have a bookstore or library and, in fact, took pictures of the odd sight of Sara reading for the town newspaper)
Though Amy isn’t alive in Broken Wheel anymore, her story lives on through the letters she wrote to Sara and the books on her shelves. Readers (and Sara) get insight into the town’s inhabitants through the letters. The store that Sara transforms into a bookshop belonged to Amy and it’s her eclectic collection that lines the shelves.
Sara finds a purpose in Broken Wheel that she was missing in Sweden. She’s finally found a place to belong, and though her time is limited there, she’s determined to make a difference through her little bookstore. She loves all kinds of books and references them frequently in the novel. (Spoilers abound!) She believes that there’s a book for everyone out there. I especially liked the charming book categories she creates in her shop to entice potential readers.
The town of Broken Wheel includes an eclectic and diverse loveable cast of characters. They each have their own problems and heartaches and their stories help to round out the story. I loved seeing what book each character would wind up reading.
I listened to the audiobook read by Fiona Hardingham and Lorelei King. Part of the reason I selected this audiobook is because I like Hardingham’s narration in general, though her Iowa accent in Broken Wheel is not without controversy. Hardingham does fine with her narration for Sara but uses a Southern accent for the people of Iowa. Lorelei King is on board only to narrate Amy’s letters, and her accent is more appropriate to the novel. Hardingham’s choice of accents was not a deal breaker for me with this audiobook- I still enjoyed it. But, if you think this will be an annoying distraction I’d suggest picking up the book in print instead. Take a listen:
I thought this was a charming feel-good story and I recommend it to fans of books about books (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, etc.)