Author: Sarah Jio
Publish Date: October 4, 2011
Rating: 3.5 Bookmarks
Source: courtesy of the author and publisher
Natalie’s 1-Sentence Synopsis: A split-second decision to enlist in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II doesn’t alter the course of Anne Calloway’s life, but the experience changes her to the core of her being.
Told in a flashback, The Bungalow is set in present day Seattle. At 90, Anne Calloway Godfrey is enjoying the twilight of her days when a letter arrives that opens a portal to her past.
A privileged, insular upbringing and engagement to Gerald, the man of her parents’ dreams, leave 21-year-old Anne Calloway feeling like she’s along for the ride instead of piloting her own ship in life. She wrests control of the wheel and sets herself on a course for Bora Bora in the South Pacific, joining her childhood friend Kitty, for a 9-month deployment as an Army nurse.
Upon arrival, Anne is swept up in the allure of the island, camaraderie with her fellow nurses, and the heady feeling of independence. Kitty begins to drift away, getting cozy with the soldiers, so Anne finds comfort in a burgeoning friendship with soldier Westry Green and their discovery of a mysterious bungalow hidden along the shoreline.
As the months pass, Westry is sent on frequent secret missions, Kitty’s aloofness increases, the war heats up, and something sinister is boiling below the island’s idyllic façade. News from home leaves Anne reeling, but Westry’s love and kindness bolster her. As their time on the island dwindles, Anne is uncertain about the future of her relationship with Westry and concerned about returning home to Gerald, the man she left behind.
The Bungalow is an entertaining read with a bit of intrigue, a touch of adventure, a romantic storyline, and a bit of predictability and neatness in the story’s wrap up. I enjoyed Anne as a character and loved subplot dealing with her granddaughter and the art mystery but found several plot points convenient and some characters a bit flat. That said, the novel has merit and serves as a reminder that our parents, grandparents, and any other senior citizen has a lifetime of memories, loves, losses, and maybe even some regrets.
I spent two years volunteering in an assisted living facility and many of the residents served in World War II and Korea. The Bungalow reminded me of the danger of marginalize the elderly, the very people who fought for freedom and liberty for Americans and so many others.
Ultimately, I enjoyed The Bungalow–Jio’s vivid imagery of Bora Bora has me itching to take a trip there–and this novel will be passed to my mom, sister, and cousins. I know they’ll like the story and want to pack their bags and take a trip to French Polynesia with me! Want to come along?