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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 pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory.
All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love
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?
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.)