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Published: 1/19/16 (U.S.)
Author: Katarina Bivald – The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is Katarina’s debut novel, and it’s currently sold in 25 countries. She lives in Sweden and according to her bio on her publisher’s website, she still hasn’t decided whether she prefers books or people.
Plot: Sara, a reclusive bookworm, arrives in the tiny, dusty little town of Broken Wheel to visit her pen pal Amy. Although the two women have never met in person, they’ve bonded through their handwritten letters and over their shared love of books. Once she arrives, Sara is told the devastating news that Amy, who was elderly and ailing, has passed away. At first Sara is bewildered as to what she should do next, but Amy’s friends insistently install Sara in Amy’s house, and thus the adventure begins which will change not only Sara’s life, but open the eyes of Broken Wheel’s residents in some unexpected ways.
There are so many magical moments in this book, some funny, some sad. There’s one though that has particularly stayed with me despite me having read this back in December. Sara has been staying in Amy’s house for a few days, and feeling very uncomfortable about it. There’s one room whose door is closed, that she’s adamantly refused to enter: Amy’s bedroom, where she died. But one night, desperate for something new to read, and being a little tipsy, she bravely enters her friend’s room. To her amazement it’s “like her dream library”. The walls are lined with bookcases filled with everything from classics such as Jane Eyre, to the Harry Potter series. As Sara sits upon the bed, looking around in wonderment she thinks:
“Amy might not have had the most exciting life over the past few years, up here in her room, but she must have been fighting death to the very end. Sara could understand why she had been in denial for so long. It must have been a frightening realization: So many books she would never get to pick up, so many stories that would happen without her, so many authors she would never get to discover. That night, Sara sat in Amy’s library for hours, thinking how tragic it was that the written word was immortal while people were not, and grieving for her, the woman she had never met.”
Why It Matters: This scene more than any other sums up how two women despite the disparity in their ages and their cultures, wind up developing such a close bond. In fact, even though they never actually meet, Sara and Amy become true kindred spirits. Even more importantly though, I think this scene where Sara finally openly grieves for her friend, will call out to every book lover who gets a thrill each time they begin reading a story, whether it’s something new or an old, familiar favorite.