This is a wonderful romantic comedy about books, small town America, books, friendship, books, love, books and how to live a life worth reading about.
At the centre of the book is Sara, a gentle, perceptive young woman from Sweden who has fallen in love with books but has never really succeeded in engaging with people, except for Amy, her pen-friend in the USA with whom she corresponds about books and life and the meaning of both. Through Amy's letters Sara learns about the small town of Broken Wheel and the people who live in it and a new urge strikes her: to go out into the world and experience things for herself.
Sarah arrives in the USA for her long-planned visit with Amy, only to find that her friend has died. The people of Broken Wheel insist that Amy would have wanted her to stay and move her in to Amy's house.
What follows is a delightful story of the world as I would like it to be, where good people help each other to be better people and books expand people's imaginations and unlock their hearts.
The is a perfectly balanced romantic comedy with lots of funny moments and quite a few moments of "Oh, I hope this doesn't all go badly wrong" angst. The people in the book are described with compassion and without judgement.
Books are also important characters in this novel. I found myself saying hi to many old friends and being reminded of how much fun it is to meet someone who likes the same books as I do but has a few new ones to recommend. At one point in the story, Sara is sitting surrounded by Amy's books. She's supposed to be sorting them but ends up dipping into each of them. Sara quotes from half a dozen books without naming them and I realized I'd read all but one. Like Sara, I've often found myself surrounded by books and being so dazzled by them that I can't move on.
"The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend" makes an excellent audiobook. Fiona Hardingham, the main narrator, does a great job in setting the tone of the book. She is particularly good at giving the characters distinctive and appropriate voices.
This book made my laugh and cry. It made me think about the balance between reading and doing and about how both of them count as living. Most of all, it left me wanting to move to Broken Wheel and take all my books with me.