What bibliophile doesn’t love books about books? I’d much rather have my nose in a book than doing just about anything else. Failing that, I love nothing more than to talk about books. I suppose that’s why I’m drawn to characters who feel the same way. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a story about two such people; no wonder I couldn’t resist giving it a chance!
Sara, a bookseller from Sweden, strikes up an unlikely friendship with elderly Amy, a lifetime resident of the town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. Over the course of several years, the pair exchange old-fashioned letters and favorite books. Eventually, they agree that it is time to meet in person. Sara takes a leap of faith and travels to Broken Wheel to spend the summer with Amy. An unexpected turn of events, however, leave Sara with a choice: return home to Sweden, or make the best of life in Broken Wheel.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend strives to be a mix of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. The premise is interesting, but the plot development is formulaic and predictable. It is much like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, but set in modern day. (This is not to disparage The Andy Griffith Show, but to illustrate the straightforward simplicity of the tale.)
This simplicity is evident in other areas of the book. Many of the characters are stereotypes: the closed-minded, judgmental church lady, the town drunk down on his luck, the homely and insecure book nerd. The list continues to include the gruff townsperson with a heart of gold, the outsider who just doesn’t get small town life, and the well-meaning busybody who tries to orchestrate everyone’s lives. The setting is equally uninspired. The broken windows and empty storefronts of Broken Wheel are contrasted with the nearby town of Hope — a picturesque place with residents who dress better, are better educated, and even drive better vehicles than the people of Broken Wheel.
If you’re looking for a pleasant book where you can just go along for the ride, this is a great choice. The premise and prose are interesting enough to hold attention, the characters developed enough to make the reader care. However, do not question plot lines or motivations too deeply. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is as simple and enjoyable as it was meant to be — a happy ending tied with a bow.