Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (Bivald)

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend 
Katarina Bivald, 2013 (2016, U.S.)
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781492623441

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy.

When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor—there's not much else to do in a dying small town that's almost beyond repair.

You certainly wouldn't open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in charge. You'd need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy's house is full of them), and...customers.

The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel's own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.

A heartwarming reminder of why we are booklovers, this is a sweet, smart story about how books find us, change us, and connect us. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Katarina Bivald, born in 1983, lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, published in 2013 (2016 in the U.S.), is her first novel.

When she was 15, Katarina began working part time in a small independent bookshop and did so for the next 10 years. "In a way," she says, "you can say I grew up in one." When she began writing Broken Wheel she decided to fill it with everything she knew—mostly books. But she  came to realize that the people who read books, who visit bookstores, who linger there and chat, would become the real center of her story.

Surprisingly, when she started Broken Wheel, Katarina had never stepped foot in the U.S.—and she certainly never visited small-town American where her book is set. It didn't matter though: she feels she's "spent a lifetime knowing the U.S. through books and television and movies." (Adapted from an American Booksellers Association interview. Retrieved 2/3/2016.)

Book Reviews
Charmingly original....sweet, quirky.
Bethanne Patrick - Washington Post

A heartwarming tale about literature's power to transform..

This charming, book-loving story captures readers' hearts from the very first page.... This is a must-read for book lovers who enjoy a witty, feel-good story that goes beyond the surface.
Romance Times Review

(Starred review.) [A] delight.... Bivald fills the pages with book references, chief among them Austen and Bridget Jones, but it is her characters that will win readers over.... As in [Jane] Austen, love conquers but just who and how will come as a pleasant surprise.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) [A] heartwarming and utterly charming debut by Swedish author Bivald. 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. —Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA
Library Journal

In this sleepy charmer, a Swedish bookseller finds friendship, love, and more books in the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa..... [I]f she and her neighbor Tom can admit their feelings for each other, she might be there for good.... [R]eaders won't want to leave Broken Wheel, either.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend...and then take it from there.

1. One of the themes in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is how a single individual can strengthen a community or repair fragile lives. First, why does Sara Lundqvist decide that the people of Broken Wheel need a bookstore? Next, how does she become a catalyst for change—what is it about Sara that gives her such influence?

2. Discuss the nature and contents of Sara and Amy Harris's two-year correspondence. What do the letters reveal about each of them. Amy, for instance, writes the following:

John says I think about historic injustices too much. Maybe he’s right, but it’s just that it doesn’t feel historic to me. We never seem to be able to accept responsibility for them. First, we say that’s just how things are, then we shrug our shoulders and say that’s just how things were, that things are different now. No thanks to us, I want to reply, but no one ever seems to want to hear that.

—What do you make of Amy's view of human indifference to injustice. Is she cynical, overly idealistic, or realistic?

—What about Sara? What do the letters reveal about her character?

3. Have you ever had a long-lasting correspondence with someone you didn't know...or even with someone you did know? Can letter writing form as deep a relationship as personal contact?

4. What do you think of Sara's emotional engagement with books:

Sara couldn’t help but wonder what life might be like if you couldn’t daydream about Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy...because you yourself had created him.

—Is your attachment to books as strong as Sara's? Do you sometimes wonder if your involvement with them takes precedence over your real life?

5. Another theme in Broken Wheel is the power of books to change lives. What gives them such power—what's their secret? What is the town of Broken Wheel like when Sara arrives, and how does it change by the book's end.

6. Follow-up to Question 5: Now talk about specific characters in the novel and how individual lives are changed through reading. Which character's story engaged you most?

7. What book has changed your life...or the life of someone close to you?

8. What other works does The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommends bring to mind? Have you read, for instance, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, 84 Charing Cross Road, or The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry? If so, how does this book compare to any of those?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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