Title: Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Author: Katarina Bivald
Publication: September 2016 by Vintage
It has been a long time since I picked up a book on a whim. I usually go to a book shop with a list, or at least an idea, of what I want to pick up. However, there was something about this book that I just couldn’t resist.
Readers of Broken Wheel, tells the story of Sara and her first ever trip outside of Sweden; meeting the inhabitants of Iowa town Broken Wheel, including her Pen-Pal Amy. However, this trip is not what she expected. Amy has died, and the town, much as it’s name may suggest, is broken and grieving. All things considered, however, this novel isn’t about death or unhappiness; it’s about finding who you are, where you want to be, and what you can do to help those around you – finding your role, purpose, and joy. This is a very life-affirming text. This novel not a classic in the penguin classics sense, but it had that feel. I am not that into classics, but I enjoy the homely sense that titles such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ convey – the roaring fires, the relationships, and the people – and I got the same feeling from this book. It was so friendly and warm.
More than just being a comforting and very enjoyable read, Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend also asked some incredibly interesting questions, questions that would evoke different answers depending on how much of a bibliophile that reader is. Sara regularly escapes from her, somewhat predictable and dead end life back in Sweden, using Literature as the route. Throughout the book, there are significant questions asked about the, for want of a better word, healthiness of such practices? We all know that books can be wonderful entertainment, and fantastic ways of exploring worlds, attitudes, lives, and opinions that we maybe wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and that is undoubtedly excellent. However, is there a line that can be crossed, should be crossed? Can it be used by an individual as too much of an escape, as a way of hiding from the world? Can living in a Literary world mean that real life experiences, people, and feelings are forgotten. Or, is a life partly in the Literary realm allow people to express themselves better, and understand other people’s opinions, lives, and situations? These, and other thoughts such as those regarding the potential dangers of reading, the continuing feelings that some people have relating to the immorality of escapism to the degree of some bibliophiles (especially interesting considering the topics raised in an academic seminar I recently attended).
Katarina Bivald is such a talented Author. She has created such a beautiful, multi-layered and thought-provoking story. Using interesting, complex, relatable and ultimately loveable characters, paired with a quaint setting and engrossing storyline, she avoids the pit-full of a cumbersome, and dense read. The summery ease of the cover was so spot-on.
I urge everyone to read this novel – especially if you are as much of a bibliophile as me.