Review: The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

Title: The Bungalow

Author: Sarah Jio

Genre/Pages: Fiction/320

Publisher: Plume

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?


  1. I don’t mind some predictability if the story is good. This sounds like a winner!

  2. Now if I could just read it while lounging in that hammock!

  3. This sounds like it’s right up my alley! Loved your review and the photos…

  4. I love the cover to this book. Every time I see it around, I get happy. Add that to the colorful pics in your post and how could I not like your review.

  5. I could barely read the review I was so distracted by the photos. I will totally have to go there someday — with or without you.

  6. I love books that have the power to take you somewhere new and inspire you to travel somewhere. I love your inclusion of pictures in your review. Makes me want to both go to Bora Bora and read this book!

  7. Just read Ms. Jio’s THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, set in the present and the 1940s, mostly on Bainbridge Island, WA. Really enjoyed that one (, and THE BUNGALOW is in my TBR pile.

    Thanks for the photos!

  8. oh, sure. just ditch me. nice! c’mon, i have some time off in the middle of january. i’ll meet you at PHI and we’ll hop a flight for paradise.

  9. i read the violets of march, too! enjoyed that one also and felt the tug to travel to the pacific northwest. i guess i’m easily swayed by vivid imagery and far-away places.

  10. Thank you for this thoughtful review, Natalie! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed The Bungalow, and I just LOVE all the images you included with your review. So much fun! Hope you get to take that South Pacific vacation soon. If you wait until the spring, I’ll send along an ARC of my new novel, Blackberry Winter, to tuck along in your beach bag. Thanks for taking the time to read my second novel. Very best wishes, Sarah xo

  11. I definitely agree that parts of the plot were insanely predictable, but that didn’t keep me from really enjoying this one, too! It is important to remember the contributions of the earlier generations and cherish their memories. And I’m also very interested in checking Bora Bora out!

  12. love the pictures! i think i would sell my left arm to be there right now. glad to see you enjoyed this book! sarah jio’s name is starting to pop up more and more in the list of authors you should read. i’ll have to give one of her books a try one day.

  13. This one, and Jio’s first book were not books I’d ever pick up on my own, but for some reason, they work for me. I think she does a really good job with setting and she immediately pulls you in. There were parts of this one that seemed too pat and that would never really happen, but I sort of overlooked those parts because I liked the characters.

    How have you been? How is your sis?


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