Books That Came Out This Month · Reviews

“The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” by Katarina Bivald

It all starts with letters and books. Of course something magical was bound to happen! But first things first…

“(…) but how fun is it to read a fantastic book if you can’t tell others about it, talk about it, and quote from it constantly?”

Someone once said that books recommend people. If you find someone reading your favourite novel, it’s like the book is telling you that you must befriend the person reading it immediately. While I appreciate the thought, I find that to be quite a stretch. But when there are openhearted letters involved, dialogue and more book recommendations? I believe that’s life recommending a person. So I definitely understand why Sara would go all the way from Sweden to the US to meet Amy at her little town of Broken Wheel.

When you feel like you have lost everything, change can only bring you something. Even if just one second of insane courage, one moment that makes your heart skip a beat, one plane ticket… Even if Sara had simply landed and turned right back around, it would already have been something. That’s all she needed. So why not stay for a bit longer? Little did she know she was on her way to incarnate Tolkien’s “not all who wander are lost”.

What a picturesque little town! I was so excited for Sara, walking down streets that she had already envisioned, running into people that already had a beating heart in her imagination. It was as if she was suddenly living inside one of her books. The author? Her darling friend Amy. Speaking of authors, am I the only one who got the feeling that the narrator was the town itself? I am not sure if it was intended, but there’s space for the idea to come across and it’s wonderful. The town seems so proud of itself, so alive… it’s only fair that it has its own voice, right?

With once piece of the town’s puzzle missing, one extremely important, if not fundamental, piece, it was more than expected that Sara would somehow fill it. I don’t think she was ever meant to take over Amy’s place, but to instead bring the puzzle back to its glorious togetherness in her own way. The romance too was more than expected. Fiction has taught us a long time ago how to connect these dots. We have most definitely run into this basic puzzle before, but its colours? In The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend they shine brighter. The way the characters are written, for example. No one is secondary. There are so many layers to these people that they feel brilliantly real. Caroline, George, Grace, Andy, Josh, John, Tom, Carl, Jen, William… they all become close friends and family. Each one with their struggles, their dreams, hopes and desires. And Sara, by opening the bookstore and wanting to stay, opens new doors to these people. I love the symbology. How these books, these pages, these leaves, seem to breathe air back into this precious little town. It’s wonderful to witness.

“(…) those who think the world has automatically become better simply because they’re old enough to shape it now, but without any of them having made the slightest contribution to improving it.”

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend seems humbly greater than itself. It’s an extremely clever book, not taking itself too seriously. It discusses matters such as racism, homosexuality and feminism, and it does so openmindedly. It’s like the book is trying to tell us that it’s more than a lovely escape, it’s a place to wonder and wander without getting lost. It’s a place to learn at our own pace.

To read or not to read, that is the question.

Full of references that remind us that books are ageless, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend remains true to its title. It will either take you back to the moment when you first read Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, or it will lead you to it for the first time. Through Harry Potter to Jane Austen, stopping by the world of Pratchett (felt like a tribute, how wonderfully deserved) and carrying on to Mark Twain and Dan Brown… This is mostly a book about freedom. Freedom to be who we are, freedom to reclaim our place as main characters in our own story, in our own life.

Touching, uplifting, hopeful, clever, heartbreaking and absolutely hilarious at times, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a must read for book lovers. And we all know exactly where to shelf it, right? Most definitely under Happy Endings When You Need Them. Speaking of which, how delicious was that ending? For me, further proof that the narrator is definitely the town.

I don’t know about you, but I am off to Broken Wheel. See you on the other side!

ARC provided by SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via NetGalley.

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