Thursday, February 18, 2016

An Innocent Abroad

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald (Sourcebooks Landmark trade paperback, 19 January 2016).

After some years of correspondence, Sara Lindqvist travels from her home in Sweden to visit her elderly pen pal Amy Harris in Broken Wheel, Iowa.  

Unfortunately, not only does no one realize that Sara is coming, she arrives just in time for Amy's funeral.  Sara, of course, feels lost and disoriented, but the inhabitants of the tiny town seem to take it for granted that Sara will stay, using Amy's house as a base until she figures out what to do.

Since Sara really has nothing to return home to, since the bookstore where she worked had closed, she decides that she'll stay for the month she'd planned to spend with Amy.  

She slowly gets to know the townspeople, who take her under their collective wing, making sure she has enough food and providing someone to drive her wherever she needs to go.

After Sara discovers the treasure-trove of books in Amy's house, she decides to open a bookstore in a vacant storefront that Amy owned on Main Street.  Never mind that her visa doesn't allow her to have a job, or that the residents of Broken Wheel never understood Amy's passion for books; Sara believes that sharing the love of literature will be her way of paying them back for their kindness.

As word of the crazy-Swedish-woman-who-opened-a-bookstore in the dying town of Broken Wheel spreads, and tourist traffic in Broken Wheel slowly increases.

Bivald's book has been compared to Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road and Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, but I think that the only similarities are that they all include a bookstore and a bookseller who shares a love of literature.  

And, perhaps, a story that begs to be read in one sitting.

FTC Full Disclosure:  Many thanks to the publisher for the Advance Reading Copy of this book.

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