I climb into my reading chair, the one where I push back and my feet stretch out in front of me, and I feel the smooth cover of a rather thick paperbound edition. The cover of the book is filled with its strange title: “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.” I haven’t given much thought to what it will be about. It was highly recommended by a blog reader I admire. It was on hold for me at the library so I won’t be able to renew. I’d better get started. I open the first page and began to read. Late afternoon natural sunlight streams through the glass of the French doors and I can comfortably read the print.
One thing I love about reading is the mystery of it. With each book comes the question: Will I fall into it and be surrounded by people and place? Will I feel intensely interested? Will I be transported to another world, that is a world I want to stay in and learn more about. Sometimes that doesn’t happen with a new book, even a good one. Sometimes I struggle to make sense of things. I persevere, even enjoy, but it is not the same as being lost in a fresh world, noting so many lovely details. And every time I pick up a good book I go to that other place. That’s the joy of reading.
This book begins with a short letter from a reader in Sweden to a reader in Broken Wheel, Iowa. I dive into the first chapter and I am in small-town Eastern Iowa on Main Street alongside the Swedish reader who arrives for a long visit. The woman from Sweden is Sara Lindqvist, she carries her belongings and of course, a book. For me, this Eastern Iowa small town is a familiar place. Will the details ring true?
The dialogue is right. The characters offer help to Sara in an off-hand way as Midwesterners often do, even volunteering others to do the helping. Pretty much the only business left in Broken Wheel is a diner. That doesn’t surprise me. Amy, the expected host has died. But never fear, Sara will be taken care of by her neighbors.
Some details from these opening pages completely captured my mind and imagination. “Amy Harris wrote proper letters on real, old-fashioned writing paper, thick and creamy.” As Sara is driven along from the small town where she arrived to the smaller town of Broken Wheel “an enormous wall of corn looming up on either side of the road, which stretched straight out ahead for miles. Every now and then it was intersected by other roads, also perfectly straight, as though someone had, at some point, looked out over the enormous fields and drawn the roads in with a ruler.” My favorite is this one: “how even the treetops seemed neat and well-organized.” In many a Midwestern small town if you are standing on one of the higher elevations in the town you look down on trees that from a distance make you think of well-trimmed hedges. These treetops are often punctuated by church belfries and steeples.
Yes, after only 12 pages I am completely captured by the story’s beginnings. I expect to enjoy my stay in Broken Wheel for as long as it lasts. I look forward to finding out what readers there are reading. And what will Sara from Sweden make of Iowa? I hope neither of us will be disappointed.
As I said earlier, each new book a reader picks up and begans to read is a mystery, full of wonder and promise. There are book lovers everywhere. The jacket of this book reminds me that if I’m a fan of “The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry” (and I am), I’ll like this one too. I truly hope so. The first pages shine with promise. This might be the perfect book for me to read now. Back to my reading chair!!!