Broken Wheel is a little, decaying shard of a town in the middle of Iowa, where an older woman, a lover of books, widowed, no family, starts up a pen pal correspondence with a young woman in Sweden. The young woman is shy, and prefers to read than to socialize, works a dream job in a book store, and the two form a solid friendship, sending each other books. I so loved that, except all my jaded mind could think of was the cost of the postage to do that! When you order a book from Amazon sent to Mexico, the duty and the shipping cost more than the book itself! Hence my love for my Kindle. And ebooks.
Between them, there is talk of the young woman visiting the gal in Iowa, and when her bookstore goes out of business, what has she got to lose? So off she goes to visit her American friend.
Except that when she gets there, the friend has died, the funeral is just over, and the townspeople, calling her the tourist, install her in her dead friend’s house for the duration until her return flight, three months away.
Everyone is kind to her, cannot understand her love of reading, and will not let her pay for anything, not the restaurant, (OK, hamburger joint), the bar, the hardware/grocery store, nothing. So she figures that she will try to do something to pay her way, by offering to help out the establishments, but that only makes the folks think she has run out of money. Once she has straightened out that misunderstanding, she decides to open a book shop in her friend’s empty storefront, using her friend’s extensive book collection.
The opening of the bookstore generates a new feeling in town, where, as in all fictional small American towns, everyone is lovely and helpful and tries to get the young people together.
The book touches on LBGT issues, race issues, immigration, and even has a reluctant cougar. All fairly implausible, given what I know about folks, but hey, it’s fiction, and what good is fiction if it doesn’t give us an improved world? I think this is my big beef with dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. I don’t want to see this world at its worst. I want it see it as it could be at its best.
The book is by a Swedish author, written in Swedish and translated by Alice Menzies, and contains some puzzling assumptions but is no less likable for them.
If you liked 84 Charing Cross Road, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Chocolat, you will like this one. Not as deep, no real realism undercurrents as in those books, but charming in its own way.