Sunday, January 3, 2016

(1)The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Sara and Amy are pen-pals whose love of books helped to develop a friendship much deeper than just letters.  Sara, a bookseller in Sweden, and Amy, an avid reader in small-town Iowa, have one thing in common, their shared love of reading.  Amy invites Sara to visit Broken Wheel, Iowa and Sara accepts.  It would be a nice vacation for Sara and a chance for them to further bond over books.  Only once Sara arrived she discovered that Amy has passed away.  Her grief is deep, but Amy's friends and family welcome her to Broken Wheel with open arms. Amy's nephew, the handsome Tom, allows Sara to stay in Amy's home and Sara finds it easy to be with Tom. But, even with the town's kindness and generosity, it doesn't take long for Amy to realize that Broken Wheel is, well, broken.  The small town is a breath away from being another casualty of urbanization.  There are empty schools, foreclosed homes, and abandoned store fronts.  Sara opens a bookstore as a way to honor her friend's memory and while it sparks a flame in the community, is it enough to revive the little community?

I grew up in a small Iowa town surrounded by communities not unlike Broken Wheel, Iowa. I remember about 25 years ago, a Big Box store was poking around the area looking for a place to build a new store.  All of the talking heads said that whatever community  was lucky enough to "get" the store will be the community that survives.  They were right.  My hometown got "the" Big Box store and the communities around it have all become Broken Wheels.  Full of empty store-fronts and abandoned homes.  Having said that, I loved experiencing Iowa from a newcomer's eye.  Sara's observations were astute and charming at the same time.   Broken Wheel was so foreign to Sara that it was interesting to watch how she integrated herself into the community and it primarily came when she opened the bookstore.   The community obviously took to her, for it was them who plotted a way to keep Sara in Broken Wheel as her Visa was running out.  The bookstore was fun, too.  I loved how she categorized the books into labels that people would find easier to search by - like Chick Lit.  OH and speaking of Chick Lit, the author (via Sara) gave a nice commentary on good Chick Lit versus bad Chick Lit - I found myself practically fist-pumping in agreement.  That was just one of the few literary observations I found myself agreeing with throughout the book.  There were so many references to so many books I lost track, but finding a title mentioned that I had read almost felt like finding an Easter egg.  It made for a fun experience. 

Bottom line - The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend incorporated two of my loves - reading and Iowa.  The author did a great job at depicting a small Iowa town and intertwining books as important to me as my home state.    A great read for any small town girl or lover of books.



Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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