[I received a copy of this novel from its Canadian publisher Penguin Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the book.]
I think it’s a little fitting for a book about book lovers to be the one to push me out of my review-writing slump slash mini hiatus (guys, I really did not think I needed that time off, but I guess I did). When I heard the premise of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, I was ecstatic. The story line is quite simple: Sara, who is from Sweden, has finally mustered up the courage to visit her book-loving pen pal Amy in Broken Wheel, Iowa. But things don’t go according to plan. When she gets there, Sara learns that Amy is unavailable to meet her. With her return flight booked for a few weeks away, Sara decides to stay in the sleepy town anyway and eventually plays a huge part in spreading the love of reading to its residents via a neighbourhood bookstore. It’s definitely a book for book lovers.
It makes me a little sad to admit, then, that I had some ups and downs with this book. It took me a little bit of effort to become fully immersed with the characters and get all of the story lines straight, but when I did (and when the parts about the bookstore became more prominent), I was incredibly invested. There really is nothing better than reading about other people falling in love with stories and characters, whether it’s for fun or to get over a difficult time. But then there was the romance part of the book, which – and I don’t know if it’ll be just me – I really wasn’t convinced of. For some reason I just couldn’t believe in the love story, couldn’t believe that those two people would be able to fall in love just like that. Again, I don’t know, it could be just me.
That isn’t to say that there weren’t parts of the books that I really enjoyed. As I mentioned above, the bookstore and the book lovers were the big draw for me. There are many quotable parts in the novel relating to books and the experience of reading, and I really enjoyed that. I guess, if I’m to sum up this incredibly scattered review, I’d say forget about the romance between characters and read it for its true love story: the love of reading and the way it can bring a community together.
Verdict: A book for book lovers that I wish I’d loved more. I can’t say I didn’t like the book because that would be untrue, but there were parts that I wasn’t as interested in.
Read if: You want to watch a sleepy community come alive through reading, want to read a book about a friendship developed via snail mail, want to see some of your favourite books (like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee) referenced in its pages.
Have you read The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend? Are there any books that you were really hoping to love but didn’t?