I am one of those readers who loves books about books, preferably books about books I’ve read and not just those that I should have done, so I was overjoyed to receive a copy of this book from Random House UK Vintage Publishing following reading a wonderful review of this book by Lady Fancifull.
Amy Harris and Sara Lindqvist have exchanged letters for over two years, a habit that started with their shared love of books, some of which are included for our pleasure, and following redundancy from her job in a book store in Sweden, Amy decides that Sara should visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa.
The story starts with Sara sat waiting in the nearby town of Hope, for Amy to pick her up. While she waits she sits and reads Louisa May Alcott’s An Old-Fashioned Girl, until eventually a local resident takes pity on her and arranges for her to be taken to Broken Wheel. Once there she receives the news that she’s arrived on the day of Amy’s funeral. The welcoming residents assure her that Amy would have wanted her to stay anyway and so she does.
Sara is a shy young woman who has never had a boyfriend and prefers books to people, she’s never travelled but she puts on her big girl pants and sets about getting to know the residents, those people so fondly described in Amy’s letters. Broken Wheel however is another matter, it is a town which has lost its heart, many of the shops are boarded up and while the residents are friendly and welcoming, it is clear that Amy was at the centre of the town and the wisdom and the support she lent to her neighbours. Sara isn’t quite sure what to do with herself so despite realising that this town isn’t populated by readers, she decides to open a book store with Amy’s books.
Along the way we get to meet the small town folk with their various foibles and along with them many sub-plots where we get to sympathise and hope for the best of ‘happy-ever-after’ outcomes for them all as fortunately all the truly undesirable characters have upped sticks and moved to more affluent areas, although a few difficult ones remain to keep things interesting.
Amy always seemed to know precisely what people wanted to hear. Caroline knew only what they should hear, and the two were very rarely the same thing.
This is a sweet story which had it not been for the inclusion of the books may have ended up on the wrong side of twee for my tastes. Sara decides to shelve the books in an original manner so that those entering the shop could find what they wanted starting with SEX, VIOLENCE AND WEAPONS some shelves got sub-headings such as reliable authors, those that can be depended on to produce good books time after time:
Reliable authors: Dick Francis, Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer. Strictly speaking, Dan Brown also belonged here, she thought. He was so reliable that you got the exact same story every time. A kind, older mentor! Surely he won’t turn out to be the villain?
But the inclusion of a wide variety of books and some fun characters with more than a hint of similarity with the epistolary books of 84 Charing Cross Road and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that also have the common theme of books, although The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend isn’t entirely written in letters.
There is an awful lot to enjoy here and even though Sara seemed born of a different time and the ending thoroughly, yet beautifully expected this would make the perfect lighter read for any booklover. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is going to be published on 18 June 2015.