When going on vacation every summer, a “book-box” is put together to be packed along with swimsuits, suntan lotion and puzzles. Browsing the library shelves, searching for books to include in the book-box is always a fun undertaking. Books must match the different interests of family members and those interests run the gamut, ranging from spirituality to irreverent humor, from paranormal romance to current events. It ends up being quite an eclectic bunch of titles! This year, one of the books selected was The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, written by Katarina Bivald. Little did I realize how much I had in common with the protagonist, Sara Lindqvist.
Sara, who is from Sweden, strikes up a friendship with Amy Harris, who lives in Broken Wheel, Iowa. After several years of corresponding back and forth through letters talking about books they both love, Amy invites Sara to take a long vacation and come stay with her in Broken Wheel. On the day Sara arrives, however, she encounters Amy’s funeral guests leaving Amy’s house. Not sure what to do with each other, the townspeople offer Sara the use of Amy’s house and begin to look after Sara. It’s hard to say who is more bewildered by whom. Sara finds it difficult to believe that no one in town reads and the citizens of Broken Wheel are confused by someone who constantly has her nose in a book.
Broken Wheel is a dying town, but the people that Sara encounters welcome her and invite her into their lives. They never let her pay for things such as groceries, coffee, or dinners. Sara decides that the best way to pay them back for their hospitality is to set up a bookstore using books from Amy’s collection. Sara then sets about connecting people to just the right book, even if it’s one they might never have thought of reading. The books get their readers out of their comfort zone and end up enriching, or changing their lives in some way.
Reading the author’s description of the importance of books to Sara and her development as a person was very much like reading a description of myself, a child that preferred books over people. It is obvious that the author knows all about the joys and perils of being a book-worm.
What struck a personal chord was how books can and do change a person. Sometimes it’s a small way of thinking, and sometimes it’s a big “aha” moment. Seeing how these books broadened the horizon of the townspeople and brought about the revival of a dying town confirmed how reading can indeed change a person’s life.
MJ Wilkerson is the Library Director of the Alamance County Public Libraries. She can be reached at 336-513-4753 or firstname.lastname@example.org.