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.
For the first time in her life, Sara is doing something bold and daring; Sara is flying halfway around the world to Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet her beloved friend and pen pal, Amy. With her visitor’s Visa, a chunk of her savings, and all the books she can fit in her suitcase in tow, Sara arrives in Broken Wheel only to find her friend dead and buried. And so, begins the greatest adventure of Sara’s life.
Broken Wheel is the smallest of small towns with very little in the way jobs, income, businesses, and opportunity. Many of the once prosperous stores have closed their doors and those that are still open are struggling to stay afloat. Through Amy’s letters, Sara knew much of the situation and much more about the citizens of the dying town. From the moment she arrives, Sara is made welcome by Broken Wheel’s residents and offered every courtesy including rides around town, free meals at the diner, and groceries at the small store. Though Sara is grateful for the courtesy, she knows the situation many of these people and wants to contribute to the community in some way.
And then, an idea in memory of her dear Broken Wheel friend is formed . . . .
Though literally every resident of Broken Wheel tells Sara her idea to open a bookstore is hairbrained, she refuses to listen and enlists help where she can find it. Within days, Amy’s emptied hardware store has been cleaned and transformed into Broken Wheel’s first bookstore. Though Sara doesn’t expect much from Broken Wheel’s residents, she is convinced if she can just get them in the door, she can convince them of the worthiness of books and reading. What’s more, Sara is absolutely convinced there is a book out there for everyone and her gift is matching readers with their book.
And the days go by . . . .
Sara is most certainly an oddity in Broken Wheel and that, more than the allure of books brings people into her little store. But Sara is also an exceedingly kind and generous person and through her conversations, she learns more about the people of Broken Wheel and what they like. With her garnered information, Sara begins to pair people with books and it isn’t long before the whole town is thoroughly enchanted by Sara and her books. Even the toughest, most resistant residents are charmed by Sara and it isn’t long before the town concocts a crazy plan to keep Sara with them.
The Bottom Line: This is one of those reads where I just can’t understand the lowish overall rating on Goodreads. I found this book to be utterly charming, packed with the most delightful characters, and a story based on the power of reading and friendship. Sara is very much a balm to the residents of Broken Wheel and her bookstore helps revitalize a town and a group of people who have all but given up. There are so many moments in this read: happy moments, crazy moments, sad moments, truly unbelievable moments, and the quiet moments that very much define this read. I freely admit, there are some sluggish bits to this book, even in audio form, but those are few and far between. What’s between those sluggish bits is a truly good story about love and friendship, community, companionship in all its forms, and dedication and devotion to a common cause. What’s more, this book will especially appeal to book lovers with all its references and referrals to books from a wide variety of genres and across time periods.