Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

I’ve noticed that, other than British authors, I don’t really branch out much to international authors and I’m not entirely sure why.

I’ve hit the biggies – like Conrad, Dostoyevsky, Murakami and so on, but I’ve been trying to remedy that and include more foreign authors in my reading. It’s slow going right now as I keep getting distracted by books I’ve been planning to read by British or American authors (darn you, Donna Tartt!).

I’m not sure what draws my attention from non American/British authors – I supposethat it could be that I perceive that there’s cultural differences that will limit my enjoyment of their styles. In any case, as I’ve said, I’m trying to do better.

Months ago, I was approved for an ARC of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, who happens to be a Swede. Reading the description, I figured that this work for me as the book is set in the US and so I would at least have some frame of reference. If I couldn’t appreciate everything, I figured that I could understand the characters at least.

So, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend centers on Sara, a young Swedish woman who treks out to Iowa to visit her Amy, her American pen pal. When Sara arrives, shefinds that Amy has died. Instead of returning to Sweden, she decides to stay in Iowa for a while and eventually, endears herself to the residents of the town who plot to find a way to ensure that Sara is able to remain in Broken Wheel.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a light, frothy read, which if that is your wheelhouse, should that sort of book be your poison.

It’s not mine.

It’s not that I cannot enjoy a simplistic book, but there are things that I need to be engaged. If those things aren’t there, then neither am I. The book has sort of a chick-lit feel, which isn’t exactly my favorite sort of novel to read. I don’t want to seem disparaging in calling some literature “chick-lit” – I don’t have a better way to describe those sorts of books quickly. I don’t mean that they have no value or worth; it’s simply that, like science-fiction, I don’t particularly enjoy the convictions and style of the genre.

Bivald’s prose is workmanlike and quite competent. She’s quite good at setting a feeling and honestly, it really helps that the book acknowledges it’s chick-lit leanings. Instead of running away from it, the novel leans a bit towards it, which makes it stronger.

However, I found that some of the logistics of the novel to not work out quite well. The marriage subplot is somewhat eye-roll inducing as it’s a bit cliche. It arises to solve a problem, but I am not quite sure if this  was a problem that really needed to be solved. I understand that without that subplot, the novel would have quite a different end, but as it stands, I think that the different end is needed. There isn’t much here to differentiate Bivald’s book from the mounds of other books out there that are in the same vein.

Additionally, it’s a bit…difficult to buy that the residents would go through such trouble to ensure that Sara remains in Broken Wheel. Sara honestly doesn’t have much of a personality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it doesn’t help when it comes to believing that the residents of the town would plot so much for her. I mean, yes, they do appreciate the changes she’s brought to the town and their lives, but still. I couldn’t quite believe it.

Also,  I had a hard time really believing in Broken Wheel’s characters. I admit that I’ve never traveled to Iowa; in truth, I’ve never spent any time in the middle of my country, other than one layover in Chicago. I’m really an East Coast girl and I’ve periodically hit the West Coast a few times. I did, however, spend the first 11 years of my life in Rural America and  the characters of Broken Wheel just feel false. I found that there seemed to be an oversimplification of small town life and small town people here. The supporting characters were somewhat broad and ridiculous and strained all credibility. I could not believe that no one in this town read. It made absolutely no sense to me.  But hey, what do I know – perhaps Middle America Rural Americans are super different from East Coast Rural Americans.

Finally, I’ve heard that this book is a book for and about readers and I can’t really agree that that assertion. Yes, Sara is a reader and her pen pal Amy was a reader. Yes, Sara opens a bookstore and she mentions books from time to time. I don’t think that makes a book a “reader’s book”. The Reader of Broken Wheel Recommends reads like a slightly elevated form of chick-lit. Sara’s personal journey and her romance are the star of this show – the most important aspects here. There’s not much to say about the soul of books or how earth shattering reading a book can be.

The Reader of Broken Wheel Recommends wasn’t for me, I think. It was serviceable and nice, but there just wasn’t enough there to keep me engaged and entertained.

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