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.
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication date: January 1, 2016
Source: eGalley approved by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was pretty much guaranteed to be a success in my book (pun intended) as it incorporates a couple of my absolute favourite things in a novel: a small town, a loveable introvert as the protagonist and too many literary references to count. This book was just one big comforting hug and I loved it, even though the ending left me a bit unsatisfied.
The main thing I loved about this book is the fact that it made me feel incredibly inspired. I wanted to start writing straight away, because this is the kind of book I would love to have written myself (although I would change a couple of things, but we’ll get to that later). Besides that, it features a girl opening up her own book shop, which is also something I occasionally (quite often) dream about doing “once I grow up”.
Sara travels to Broken Wheel all the way from Sweden to visit her friend Amy, who she’s never actually met but with whom she’s corresponded passionately about books for quite some time. When she gets to Broken Wheel, she finds a town that’s dilapidated and virtually deserted, and then she finds out that Amy had neglected to tell her that she was quite sick, and that’s she’s passed away. Sara doesn’t really know what to do with herself after that, but the townspeople welcome her with open arms. She’s quite overwhelmed by that, since Sara is extremely introverted and would much rather spend her time reading than socialising.
It was lovely to read about Sara coming out of her shell and becoming friends with this wonderfully weird cast of characters, my favourite of which was George, a recovering alcoholic and a very kind-hearted man, who drives Sara everywhere she needs to go. All of the characters have their own problems, but one of the main things they worry about is the future of Broken Wheel. There are hardly any jobs, and most of the stores have closed long ago. When Sara opens up the book store, which she emphasises is a town project, Broken Wheel finally starts to blossom a little again. That was really quite heart warming to read about. Plus, as you might know, I’m just a sucker for small town stories. I don’t know why, but I adore them.
There was one aspect to this story that was just a little too far-fetched in my opinion. Sara has to return at some point, since she’s in the States on a travel visa and thus can’t stay forever. The people in town come up with a rather ridiculous plan to make her stay, and while some of them realise it’s completely insane, many of the characters actually believe it might happen. I also didn’t like the ending very much. It felt a bit like the easy way out, and I’m not going to say anymore about that for fear of spoiling anything.
Speaking of spoiling… While I loved all the book talk in this novel, I did not appreciate the fact that Bivald reveals so many spoilers. Seriously, this book should have a spoiler warning on the back. If you ever plan on reading Jane Eyre, don’t read this novel, because at one point Sara (or at least I think it was her) explains the entire plot. That kind of thing grinds my gears and I don’t really understand why an author would do that.
All in all, despite my trouble with the ending of the book and all the spoilers, I did really enjoy The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. It was such a comforting story, and I loved the way it made me feel inspired. It made me want to read and write ALL the books and left me with a fuzzy and warm feeling.
Campaign and Giveaway (US only)
NAPERVILLE IL (January 5, 2016) — Independent publisher Sourcebooks announces the “Readers, Recommend Your Bookstore” campaign, which will give grant money to three nominated bookstores. 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.
If you go to the link above and vote, you can participate in a giveaway that gives you the chance to win a $50 gift card.
But wait, there’s more!
You’ve also got a chance to win a copy of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend! This link will lead you to the giveaway, which is hosted by Sourcebooks, although I would really appreciate it if you mention me (@bookbakeblog) in your tweet.
Although I haven’t been explicitly told, I’m pretty sure these giveaway are only open in the US, so I’m sorry to all you international peeps (including myself)!