Listening to Katarina Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, has me contentedly immersed in Fiona Hardingham’s plumb British tones narrating a story with references to some of my favorite books. When I could not find the recently published book in iTunes, I decided to use my growing credits in Audible – and glad I did.
The letters from Amy Harris, the resident of Broken Wheel, Iowa, to twenty-year old Sara Lindqvist in Sweden, prompt a visit – Sara’s first transatlantic trip – to meet her eighty year old penpal and fellow lover of books. But the two who have bonded over books never meet; Sara arrives in time for Amy’s
Everyone knew about the “tourist”; Amy had introduced Sara to the town through her letters, which continue to refresh her voice as excerpts in Bivald’s novel. The reader hears Amy’s philosophy of life, thoughts on authors and books, and her wise suggestions for surviving. Her comment – “I guess I should try to be a better person, but it would be too difficult…” made me smile.
The town was willing to embrace anyone Amy had considered a friend, and insist she stay rent-free in Amy’s house; in fact, no one will let her pay for anything. Bartering seemed to be a vehicle for kindness; those with more took care of those with less, but no matter what she tried, noone was willing to accept Sara’s offers to reciprocate. Sara needed to find a way to pay them back.
Sara decides to open Broken Wheel’s first book store with Amy’s extensive collection of books. With the town’s blessing, she can showcase Amy’s books, match them to readers, and give them away. For someone who only felt comfortable between the pages of a book, the small town of Broken Wheel offers Sara a welcome community and a comfortable place to live among friends, while books remain her mainstay. For the small town Iowa residents, of course, reading books changes their lives. The happy ending is predictable but no less satisfying.
Reminiscent of “84 Charing Cross” and “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” – both referenced in the book – Bivald sprinkles her book with humorous asides and with references to books – to remember, to reread or to add to your list. Through Sara, Bivald exclaims: “Books are meant to be better than reality. Bigger, funnier, more beautiful, more tragic, more romantic…” This charming and witty book delivers.