The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
Published by Plume, an imprint of Penguin
Review copy provided by the publisher
Anne Calloway is newly engaged but has bigger dreams for herself than being a wife and mother at the age of twenty-one. So with her nursing degree in hand, she sets off to the island of Bora-Bora to serve in the Army Nurse Corps to do her part for the Second World War. Although she loves her fiance back home, she befriends an intriguing soldier named Westry, and quickly their friendship develops into something deeper. In an abandoned bungalow on the beach, they are able to love one another in peace, until Westry is redeployed and Anne is forced to return home to her fiance. Seventy years later, she returns to Bora-Bora to find the love she thought she lost all those years ago.
I highly enjoyed Jio’s debut novel, The Violets of March [my review] so I was thrilled to read The Bungalow as soon as I could get my hands on it. While the two books are very different, The Bungalow definitely stood up to the expectations I had for it, and it was just as enjoyable as Jio’s first novel.
This is a story about a love that stands the test of time. It is a story about the most epic kind of epic love – two people who love each other for decades, even though neither person knows if the other is even alive, let alone still reciprocating that love. Jio did an excellent job making me believe in Anne and Westry’s relationship – it started slowly as a friendship, they began to trust each other at a deeper level, and then once they really showed their love I was right there with them, completely believing what I was reading. It was clear from the beginning that Anne was not in love with the man she had back home, so when someone as gorgeous and sweet as Westry came around, it was bound to happen. But for their love to stand the test of time, that was the really magical part.
The majority of the novel takes place on the beautiful island of Bora-Bora, and Jio truly shows the reader what living on this island is all about. I could see the clear blue sky, smell the salty sea air, feel the sunshine on my face, and hear the sounds of life on an Army base as I was reading this novel. The talent Jio has for creating a sense of place is showcased quite clearly in The Bungalow.
The Bungalow is an incredibly sweet story of the kind of love that most of us only hope for. Anne and Westry are wonderful characters that crept into my heart, and Jio’s descriptions of life on the island of Bora-Bora were the icing on the cake for me. The Bungalow is a beautiful novel that I really and truly enjoyed.