Richard and Judy Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Richard and Judy Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

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"This is a book about books, and it doesn’t so much grab you from the start as slip a warm hand gently into yours and lead you insistently into the world she has created."

Richard’s review

Sometimes when you read a debut novel you feel as if you’ve come home. You know you’re listening to a voice speaking inside your head that’s a very welcome new visitor.

Katarina Bivald’s quirky, charming story is one of those. This is a book about books, and it doesn’t so much grab you from the start as slip a warm hand gently into yours and lead you insistently into the world she has created. And that’s doubly remarkable because not only is this a first novel, it’s a translation from the original Swedish.

Bivald’s own back story is part of the weft and warp of her fictional one. Like Sara, her brainy heroine, the author is obsessed with books – she grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Bivald lives in Alta, Sweden, with her sister and ‘as many bookshelves as I can squeeze in’. Such is her love of books that she has still not decided if she prefers them to people.

Sara says this about books. ‘They are meant to be better than reality. Bigger, funnier, more beautiful, more tragic, more romantic.’

Sara is 28. She has never been outside her native Sweden – other than in the books she reads. And she reads a lot of them. The expression ‘disappeared into a book’ could have been coined for Sara. So the adventure she is about to embark upon is perhaps what her entire life has been preparing her for.

She is going to open a bookshop.

And it’s not going to be in Sweden.

"It’s a wonderful tale and if you don’t fall for Bivald’s storytelling charm, I’ll eat the paperback."

Judy’s review

Sara Lindqvist has enjoyed a long pen-friend relationship with Amy Harris. Amy is a wise, well-read, elderly woman who lives in the picturesquely-named town of Broken Wheel, Iowa.

Broken Wheel is, like its moniker, broken. A failing community, but with a heart nonetheless. Amy invites Sara to come and visit her. You might think that would be intimidating for a young girl who has never left her small Nordic country, but Sara has faith in her penpal.

Broken Wheel is, like its moniker, broken. A failing community, but with a heart nonetheless. Amy invites Sara to come and visit her. You might think that would be intimidating for a young girl who has never left her small Nordic country, but Sara has faith in her penpal.

So off she goes, with hope and confidence in her heart.

But Fate intervenes. When Sara arrives in Broken Wheel, it is to the news that Amy has died. She’s in a strange town in a strange country and she doesn’t know a soul.

But the locals welcome her with open arms. She is not allowed to pay for anything – not drinks, or meals, or transport – and is put up not in a hotel or bed and breakfast, but Amy’s house, where a surprise awaits. Her friend’s bedroom is crammed with books – a library’s worth of them.

So Sara decides to turn the place into Broken Wheel’s own bookstore. And she’s good at it; she matches books to their buyers. She gets sad-sack George hooked on Bridget Jones; the town minister on The Little World of Don Camillo. Soon Broken Wheel is a changed place, and the townsfolk devise a crazy scheme to keep Sara with them.

It’s a wonderful tale and if you don’t fall for Bivald’s storytelling charm, I’ll eat the paperback.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

"The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is one of the more surprisingly improbable and delightful books I’ve read in years. What begins as an unlikely international friendship based on a mutual love of books becomes a sweet and soulful discovery of America. Quirky, unpredictable, funny, and fresh – a wonderful book"

Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire

"This gentle, intelligent Midwestern tale will captivate fans of Antoine Laurain’s The Red Notebook, Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop, and Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. ¬Fikry. An ideal book group selection, it reminds us why we are book lovers and why it’s nice to read a few happy endings"

Library Journal

"A complete knock-out in the feel-good genre."

Femina