A charming small town story that pays omage to books and readers everywhere.
Now, I adore small town stories. They just get to me. I love reading about connections and relationships between people and I find that small towns hide the most complex and intertwined of those. So I like my small town stories to focus on how people interact and what they mean to each other, how they think and feel about each other. And that’s what I was looking for in this book.
I didn’t quite get it, though.
The story follows Sara, a Swedish woman, as she comes to visit her American pen pal, who lives in a small (and I mean small) town in Iowa. The women bonded over books, it was their thing, and this book focuses as much on books as it does on Sara falling in love with the town and its residents.
The stuff I really enjoyed:
Both Sara and her charming love interest Tom. I loved the way the way their relationship developed and I loved the way they spoke to each other – it all felt very natural. I also really adored the literary references. I think any book lover will really appreciate those. If anything, I think we can all relate to preferring books to people at times.
I also loved the CONCEPT of the other characters. I liked them as ideas, in their quirkiness, but I didn’t really care for them at all. Which leads me to –
Stuff I didn’t enjoy so much:
I really felt nothing for the other characters. I liked them and thought they were intriguing, but I wasn’t rooting for them. I find that they were nice as a concept, a beginning of characters, but not how they should have been, not really fleshed out. As I said, the small town stories I enjoy focus mostly on relationship dynamics, (think J.K.Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, which is my favorite small town book ever) and this book was more about telling, rather than showing. And it told how the characters are or were, but not how they are or were WITH each other.
Also the pacing was really off. The book was too long, unnecessarily dragged out. I am all for slow books, when the slowness is in service of character development, but there wasn’t a lot of that in the first half of the book, so the slowness felt… unnecessary.
All in all, this was quite charming. And Sara and Tom’s relationship and back and forth did make me feel nice. And I loved the literary references. But the book didn’t fully satisfy me. It left something to be desired. I would still recommend it if you don’t mind the pacing to be a little on the slow side.
If you have any small town stories that you love, please let me know!