A debut novel to charm all listeners that shows beyond all doubt that it's books, along with love, that make the world go round.
It all began with a correspondence between two quite different women: 28-year-old Sara from Haninge, Sweden, and 65-year-old Amy from the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. After years of exchanging books, letters, and thoughts on the meaning of literature and life, Sara, mousy, disheveled, who has never been anywhere in her life - has really lived only for her work in a beloved bookshop, which has just closed its doors for the last time - bravely decides to accept her unknown friend's invitation to visit. But when she arrives, she finds her house empty, the funeral guests just heading home....
Sara finds herself alone. And what choice do the inhabitants of Broken Wheel have but to take care of their bewildered tourist? And what choice does Sara have, faced with a town where nobody reads and her desire to honour her friend, but to set up the perfect bookshop with all the books she and Amy shared - from Yann Martel's Life of Pi to Iris Murdoch and Jo Nesbo, to Bridget Jones and Doug Coupland's All Families Are Psychotic to Little House on the Prairie? And then watch as the townsfolk are, one by one, transformed in unexpected ways....
In the glorious tradition of 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club, Jane Austen, and movies such as You've Got Mail and Love Actually, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a big-hearted, witty book about books, friendship, love - and always being open to the unexpected.
©2016 Katarina Bivald (P)2016 Random House Audio
Say something about yourself!
This is an easy comfortable read that feels inclusive of all. It is author's debut novel translated from Swedish. I had never heard of book or author and chose it as on Richard and Judy bestseller list.
Sara (the heroine) like the author Bivald is a total bookworm. Bivald used to work in a bookshop and lives surrounded by books in her native Sweden.
Sara is 29 years old and this is her first trip out of Sweden. Sara has enjoyed a 'pen-pal' relationship with Amy Harris an intellectual and bookish older person living in 'Broken Wheel' Iowa.
The name 'Broken' suits the town as it has lost its way but its people are kind and welcoming. Amy invites Sara to visit.
Sara arrives to find out Amy has died but the townspeople rally to support her. Sara finds a library of books in Amy's bedroom.
Sara with help of towns people opens a bookstore in Amy's old shop and immediately begins matching people with books very successfully. She endears herself with local people and they come up with an ingenious way to keep her.
There is friendship love plus shared understanding acceptance, inclusion of difference in this book. The narrative was good and added to the enjoyment. I would recommend it.
the story was whimsical and totally unbelievable, but somehow captivating because of it. the narrator was blxxdy awful! if you're going to be a professional narrator, at least be able to prounouced the letters of the alphabet correctly!
"Disappointed - no depth & poor narration"
I was disappointed in this book. While the characters were generally likable, they had no depth and the story was predictable. I love to read books which explore a characters love of books. Generally these types of stories make me feel "at home". I find myself in the characters. But this book didn't give me that lovely feeling. And I never fell in love with any of the characters. I always wanted the author to let me know them more. Sometimes when I am left wanting more it is a good thing, because I am anxious for a sequel. Not here - in this book. Here, I simply wanted more in this book.
Additionally, I found the narration confusing. The characters are Midwesterners and Swedish. The accents used seem to be British. Why?
"Waste of money"
If the author had bothered to write about something or some place she knew about, the book might have been more successful.
The Iowans in the story are completely unbelievable. I grew up in very small towns throughout the section of the state that she writes about. Iowans are readers, highly educated and quirky. They are to a fault honest and will tell you what they think. The story was completely unbelievable and not charming, more confusing because even as Americans the characters are unfamiliar.
Iowans do not have southern accents nor do they sound like they are from Appalachia. I thought perhaps the story was really placed in Tennessee? Iowans live in the Midwest and they sound like most newscasters in terms of accents.......even farmers sound that way.
None of these characters strike me as being from Iowa, nor do they strike as being American.......they are stateless and do not belong to a country as far as I can figure....I could cut them all.
I could not listen to this book after the first hour. I thought perhaps the author had attended the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop and her impressions of Iowa had been formed there. But then I found she had never even been to the United States. .
"Not Quite of Its Time"
This book is, I think, quite intentionally very, very similar in theme and style to "84 Charing Cross Road" and "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." There's a literary correspondence and eccentric characters in a small town. Love of reading and sharing that enthusiasm bring people of different backgrounds and inclinations together.
I jumped into the action assuming it was taking place several decades ago. To my surprise, early on a cell phone is used. We're contemporary, in other words, and it doesn't quite make sense. Cell phones but no email? Old fashioned pen pals who have never shared photos or skyped one another? An educated and apparently well-off Swedish woman who has never traveled or gotten a driver's license? Like the other books mentioned above, "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend" brings to mind an earlier era, yet it claims to be happening in the 21st century.
It's also just too long with a few too many characters with a few too many problems. Although these people are sympathetic and varied, their stories begin to pall. and keeping them sorted out in the 12+ hour listen becomes trying. And making each tale end successfully and happily requires some contrivance.
There's promise here in the appeal of the characters and the depiction of a small, Midwestern town in economic crisis. It's interesting that a book so devoted to fly-over territory in America is translated from the Swedish!
"Charming--Suspend Your Disbelief!"
Having never read the books that this one has been likened to, I can only judge it on its own merits, and I must say I found it to be immensely enjoyable. I had no problem accepting letters rather than email (the two women shared a love of writing after all); of course Sara didn't drive (her driver's license would be Swedish after all), etc. etc. and etc.
I most certainly, however, will give you that the ending had to go through many gyrations to get to where Bivald wanted it to go, but what the hell! It was charming! It was, as Sara pointed out as she labeled shelves in Broken Wheel's one bookstore: a place for long sought after Happy Endings, and what's wrong with that?
"The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend" is about one woman falling in love with a town, one town falling in love with a woman, and life blossoming in the hearts of many (and even in the heart of said dying town). It's a feel-good read/listen. My only complaints are that what conflict it does have aren't delved into quite deeply enough and that the translation is quite simple: The prose here is spare, takes the easy way out. Not to mention, it's British English... for Iowa. Witness: "the boot" for the trunk of a car. You get my drift.
Still and all, this was a delightful cover to cover listen for me. Perhaps if you've read all the other books that have been listed you'll be disappointed? I dunno. I found the characters to be engaging, some of the concepts to be well-fleshed out, the dialogue to be fresh. I just enjoyed myself. It's been a long time since fiction has been so fun. If you don't mind a bit of a contrived ending, treat yourself to this bit of people learning about themselves and learning to accept each other. It's really quite endearing. And Fiona Hardingham does an excellent job with the narration!
The American accents from one narrator are horrible! I have family in the Midwest, but I live in the South. All of her Americans sound like someone attempting, but failing, to use a fake southern accent. Sounds nothing like the Midwest. Can't get past that to enjoy the book at all. Hate, hate, hate the performance.
See above. Ditch narrator with British accent.
"Evidence of Things Not Seen"
This book will remind any fans of The West Wing of that episode in which senior staffer Josh interviews a new lawyer for a position in the White House, only to become more and more confused about why the guy seems so alien, so "not one of us." This reads/sounds as if the author, who must be an alien who never set foot on planet Earth in this century, did her "research" for the book by walking into a bookstore at random, discovering what a "book" is, and spending one hour asking the owner for a list of their bestselling books, the names of main character(s) in each, and the general genre of each. Seriously, we have here a story about a shy, backward, boring Swede (who allegedly loves books and "prefers them to people" but seems to have gained nothing from all her reading), who moves to a town in Iowa that is actually so backward in 2015 that no one has ever read a book on paper, let alone seen an eBook or even a cell phone. The author and her heroine are Swedish but we learn nothing about that country, not even a tiny glimpse in a memory, and it's clear that neither she nor the main narrator (who is for some reason British, narrating in British English except for her Iowans, who speak mostly in Southern drawls except when they say "lore" instead of law about 22 times in the final chapter) have ever set foot in Iowa, or any other part of the midwest. These alleged Iowans call Sloppy Joes "mince," mock reading but have no alternative hobbies or interests, and are almost literally named Tom, Dick and Harry. They are as bored as the Swede and say so frequently. There's literally not one mention of a library. Or a smartphone. Or Amazon. Or Kindle. Or WHY bookstores (like the one themain character used to work in until it closed) are dying. IN A BOOK THAT PURPORTS TO BE ALL ABOUT BOOKS.
People of Iowa, unite! Rise up, organize, and protest this libelous characterization of yourselves as ignorant, backwards Dust Bowl-era luddites whose only computers are not "huge ancient gray monstrosities covered with dust " as described here, and who not only have heard of bookstores, and been inside them, but actually have whole LIBRARIES (a word not mentioned once)! And readers everywhere, rise up and protest this list of titles and main characters posing so convincingly as a good story that some of us were actually hoodwinked into pre-ordering it. If you were not one of those people, don't be fooled into wasting a credit now. I was forced after more than 95 chapters to admit to myself that this novel I'd just wasted one week on already was so boring I literally didn't care which "she" or "he" was talking at any given time. The 2 stars are for very occasional narrator Lorelei King, who, just like in Jane Smiley's "Some Luck," is excellent.
P.S. Did I mention the book LITERALLY ends with the words "happily ever after"??
"Read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry instead"
Not awful but too long, too contrived, too many characters, and too many POVs.
If you want something "charming" and about books, small towns, and bookstore owners, read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.
With Broken Wheel, I generally could not suspend disbelief. While I could buy some of the contrivances, most I couldn't. And the unlikeliness of...oh, so much that happens kept mentally yanking me out of the story while various thoughts about how silly this was, how this would never happen, etc. ran through my head .
Still, I think many people will enjoy the book. The characters, while "unlikely" are likable, or interesting.
The audio narrator...I don't get it. She sounds British, she does Sara in is what supposed to be a Swedish accent, and the people of Iowa? She performs them all as if they are from the deep south. Did nobody tell the audio narrator that people in the Midwest do not sound southern? Very odd. That said, she was a good performer in all other ways.
"Not what I expected"
The narration was excellent and brought the characters to life. The disappointing part that this was more of a romance than it was a story about books and how they reflected people's personalities or how they changed the lives of the people who read them. I expected more about the books like Will Schwabe did in the "End of Life Book Club". I was disappointed that it was more a middle of the road romance.
"Iowa is not a southern state."
Translating novels with lots of dialogue is an art that has not been utilized in this book and its narration. The British reader does a fair Swedish accent, but why do all the Iowa characters speak with Southern accents? Very distracting for this Midwesterner. The dialogue itself needs Americanizing--is ground beef really referred to as "mince" in rural Iowa? Fairly gimmicky story that tries to avoid predictability and fails, but deserves an editor nonetheless.
"Good potential, disappointing narration and story"
On the surface, it seems like a charming story: a young woman from Sweden develops a friendship with an older woman in Iowa, exchanging letters and books for several years before finally planning to meet in person. When the young woman, Sara, arrives in the small town of Broken Wheel, she discovers that her friend, Amy, has just died. The townspeople adopt Sara and she opens a bookstore with Amy's vast collection of books, determined to find the perfect match for each person in town. She does have to leave eventually, though, when her tourist visa expires. She wishes she could stay, her new friends do not want her to go, and together they try to find a solution to keep Sara in her newfound home.
The story began slowly, somewhat awkwardly, and the narration contributed a lot to this. The English narrator seems to think that Iowans have deep southern drawls, and voiced them accordingly, which was distracting and irritating. There were some sweet and funny moments scattered throughout the novel, yet ultimately they couldn't save as story limited by cliché. The characters are predictable--the feisty woman who makes moonshine and carries a shotgun; the prim and proper church lady; the single mother; the town alcoholic, newly sober; the young single man whom everyone tries to link with Sara. And of course, happy endings for all.
Overall, I wouldn't read it again. It was just not quite as good as it could have been, and the awkward pacing and shallow characters, not to mention strange narration, made it a disappointing read.
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