Saturday, August 26, 2017

Katarina Bivald - The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden – except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly penfriend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it’s time. But when she arrives, there’s a twist waiting for her – Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman’s house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.
But Sara discovers she is not exactly alone. For here in this town so broken it’s almost beyond repair are all the people she’s come to know through Amy’s letters: poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy’s guarded nephew Tom.
Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

Comment: I found the idea of this book an interesting one, not only because I imagined an engaging story but also due to the fact it was about books. Who is the reader who doesn't like bookish or literary references in a fictional story as well? I was ready to be wowed.

This is Sara's story, a young woman from Sweden who comes to America for a holiday after exchanging letters with Amy, a woman living there. When the story begins, we are told Amy - an old woman - had recently died, so it was a shock for Sara that Amy didn't tell her she was sick. Sara knows the best thing would be for her to get back home but since she has the time, the decides to stay although no one in the city accepts her money or her help. Sara then decides to start a bookshop with Amy's books and some others she can buy, in order to make the population happier or more connected to one another. But Broken wheel's population can be quite the characters...

I was not expecting this book to develop the way it did. To have a plot centered around the fact a tourist would travel to a small town in America and open a bookshop there...yes, well, the idea sounds complicated but it was interesting to see it happen. I also liked that, despite this sounding a comedy presentation, things were developed and told from a very serious POV and in a simple manner.

I liked the plot itself and how things progressed, from Sara's being shy and unsure to her being a sort of starting engine that would propel others into action as well. I also liked the secondary characters, they weren't really main ones because it was obvious most POV would be Sara's but it was nice to have a more than average development on them and even the notion of some of their feelings and thoughts from themselves and not just by secondary conversations. This made the book feel more populated and vibrant but not too much that it would become confusing.

I think that, for me personally, the issue that made me not think of this as a better book is/was the tone of it not matching the plot.
Sara is traveling to a small town, where there are obvious issues and problems when it comes to economy, social needs and even the decrease of population, which migrated to other, bigger cities. This is quite the realistic view of what is happening nowadays in several places in the world, not only America. I felt some descriptions and content were maybe a bit too serious and real to suit the plot, which had all the elements of being something "lighter". I don't mean to say the story should have been a comedy or a caricature we often see in movies where things change radically because of one or two new elements. I actually appreciated the serious content of this, the realistic portrait of what is happening, including Sara's reality in Sweden, the employment issues which happen everywhere, etc.
But then, we have a plot which heavily highlights the easier side of life, the need to escape with a book, the sort of situations that can't be easily dealt with in reality, like opening a shop. Sara's not working, she doesn't own the shop, this aspect is more than once mentioned but I can't imagine it being such a solid bonding point among the population (or some of them) the way it was portrayed. I guess my cynical side didn't really buy it.

There's a little romance, including a minor secondary one, which make the reader get distracted a bit. But the personal situation of all characters is quite seriously addressed so...not as "romantic" as it could be described. Apart from some details however, I liked both, even thinking that the HEA for the main couple wasn't as romantic as I imagined and felt too easy for the sort of issues presented during the novel.

Despite the reading experience being a good one, I admit I expected a bit more. I think what truly saved this book for me were all the reference to books, to things in other books, to scenes and emotions other books evoked, all that mentioned, referenced, pointed out to books was amazing. There are so many "suggestions" and naming of titles some of them made me want to read them even of most of them already went through my reading lists.
I think this is a good book for book lovers but for those who expect a contemporary romance maybe not so much.
Grade: 7/10

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