I absolutely love it when I come across a book that I like so much that I can't wait to gift it to several friends. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald is exactly that kind of book. Ms. Bivald is Swedish and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is her first book. It was published in Sweden in 2013 but is now sold in 25 countries, including the one in which it is set, the US. Lucky us!
The protagonist, Sara, is also Swedish and like her creator a great lover of books. Having recently lost her long-time position as a clerk in a bookshop due to it's closure, Sara travels to tiny (and dying) Broken Wheel, Iowa, to finally meet her pen pal Amy. The plan is for Sara to spend three months living with Amy and continuing their mutual love of books in person; a reading holiday, as Sara calls it. Sadly, these best laid plans fall apart upon Sara's arrival as she discovers Amy has just died! (Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. It happens in the first few pages.) Not wanting to turn around and go home and needing something to do with herself, Sara opens a bookshop on the nearly deserted Main Street with Amy's enormous book collection. It isn't long before Sara falls in love with this small town and it's inhabitants. She begins to grow on them as well.
First, I love that the relationship between Sara and Amy is that of pen pals. This certainly isn't something that we hear about very often anymore. They are true letters-written-on-stationary pen pals. No email. And even better, they send books back and forth to one another.
Sara had never believed that you had to meet someone in person to be friends- many of her most rewarding relationships had been with people who didn't even exist.
Luckily, we don't miss out on Amy all together. Included in the book are letters that Amy has written to Sara over the course of their friendship. We learn so much about her and about the lovely and interesting people of Broken Wheel.
Of course I tend to love books about book lovers. Those are my people, after all. Sara thinks many of the things that we book lovers have all thought at one time or another. She is able to explain why we love books so much.
With books, she could be whoever she wanted, wherever she wanted. She could be tough, beautiful, charming; she could come up with the perfect line at the perfect moment, and she could...experience things.
Isn't that exactly why we all love to read?
There are so many wonderful bits of this book that I'd love to share with you, but I think you would be far better served by just going out and picking up your own copy. And may I recommend you try a real, paper copy so that you can do as Sara recommends:
"Have you ever smelled a book?... Open it properly.... You need to be able to shove your nose into it.... Can you smell it? The scent of new books. Unread adventures. Friends you haven't met yet, hours of magical escapism awaiting you."
*This book was provided to me in the form of an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.*