Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review: The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

The Audible Publisher's Summary:
In the summer of 1942, 21 year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiance, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world--until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne's determination to discover the truth about the twin losses--of life, and of love--that have haunted her for 70 years.

Here's where I have to admit some guilt and some regret. Ms Jio (also author of one of my favorite novels of 2011: The Violets of March) sent me an advance readers' copy of The Bungalow back in August of last year. The Bungalow was released in hardback on December 26th (2011), yet it wasn't until Audible FINALLY secured rights to the audiobook (roughly 5 emails to customer service later 'where is Bungalow, where is Bungalow, etc) that I was able to jump into and finish the novel. Sitting down and reading is so hard for me these days between my real job, oncall associated with the real job, teaching, training my own dogs and now getting that 30-60 minutes in on the treadmill (tonight I ran my first sub-13 minute mile since I hurt my knee in 2000, go me!). Audiobooks fulfill my need to read with convenient take it anywhere (mostly while I'm driving) content. It's a win-win fir busy gals like me - except for when novels don't come out via the Audible service when I want to read them!

Anyhow, back to The Bungalow! The novel is essentially told in two parts: The first part as now 91 year old Anne is compelled to tell her Grand-daughter about her time in the pacific as a military nurse - we follow 21 year old Anne - youth and love in an era of war. The second part of the novel is present day as Anne returns to the island of her youth to set some things right and to settle the past.

There is so much to love about this novel - the sadness of what might have been and the promise of young Anne's future. Yet Anne (and those who orbit around her) don't wallow for a moment in the what 'could have beens'. I was drawn to Anne - to her story and to the future I wanted her to have. A tough fiesty lady still living at 91 years of age - in a sense she reminded me of my own grandmother packing off to take a trip someplace new - why not? The result was an engaging story with characters I quickly became deeply invested in. What ever happened to Westry? And Kitty?

The Bungalow is a love story - every moment without turning into a derivative trashy novel. A love story for the sophisticated literary pallet and escapism at it's best. At the end (and no spoilers here) I found myself at my destination with tears in my eyes - a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend several hours in the car and on the treadmill (yes, this novel was also engaging enough to get me through my intervals on the treadmill).

Narration of The Bungalow was by Gin Hammond - who voiced a perfect Anne. I am anxiously awaiting Ms Jio's next novel "BlackBerry Winter" with a release date sometime in 2012 (you know after she gets done with the book tour and publicity for The Bungalow).

The Bungalow was written by Sarah Jio and published by "Listen & Live Audio" with a release date of January 24th, 2012. The hardback version of The Bungalow was released on December 26th, 2011. The Bungalow has a runtime of 8 hours and 21 minutes.

BTW: Sarah Jio's The Bungalow is the first of my 2012 spread the love series. I have purchased three copies of the novel to distribute to three lucky friends with instructions to keep passing the books along to someone new once they finish them!

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