Between the book references and the idyllic setting, readers won’t want to leave Broken Wheel, either.

THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND

In this sleepy charmer, a Swedish bookseller finds friendship, love, and more books in the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa.

Sara Lindqvist has barely left the airport when she learns from the local townspeople that her longtime American pen pal, Amy Harris, has died. Too disappointed to catch a return flight home, Sara reluctantly stays at Amy’s house, which the deceased woman’s neighbors have already cleaned and stocked with food for Sara’s arrival. Though its population is dwindling, Broken Wheel is endearingly quaint. The residents barter for what they need, and much of Sara’s time is spent trying to overcome the oppressive niceness of nosy neighbors who won’t even let her pay for her own drinks at the town’s only bar, much less pay rent on Amy’s house. Sara didn’t have much going on in her life prior to landing in the middle of nowhere, so she's blissfully unaware that her thirst for adventure has led her to an adventure desert. But the sweetness that ensues makes up for the plot’s ambling pace. Desperate for something to do, Sara uses Amy’s book collection—a hodgepodge of classic literature, chick lit, and even erotica—to turn an abandoned hardware store into a neighborhood bookstore. Her thank-you gift to the townspeople quickly becomes a tourist attraction, turning Broken Wheel into a hotbed of romance and progressive ideas. As Sara learns her neighbors’ secrets through Amy’s books, Amy lives on in old letters that fill in the missing details. Sara's time in Iowa is limited, but her new friends suspect that if she and her neighbor Tom can admit their feelings for each other, she might be there for good.

Between the book references and the idyllic setting, readers won’t want to leave Broken Wheel, either.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-2344-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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