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". . . not your usual ‘wartime romance.’"
There are certain novels where a reviewer would have to be as talented as the author in order to profess how wonderful the story was. All that can be said is that The Bungalow is truly as beautiful as the Pacific island it takes place on.
The year is 1942, when the War was just getting started. The island of Bora Bora was not in the middle of the fighting, however it was the location of a base where soldiers sat – awaiting their fate as their names were called to be deployed into the nightmare. It was also the home of the base hospital where these wounded, broken men returned.
Twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway has just finished nursing school in Seattle and is about to marry a man she has known since she was a child. Anne is definitely in love with her ‘groom-to-be,’ but she begins to question her purpose in life when her best friend, Kitty, announces that she’s about to enlist in the Army and work as a nurse on the island of Bora Bora. Something in Anne seems to come alive, as she makes the decision that this is her opportunity to have a life beyond marriage and children. Deciding to put her plans on hold, Anne packs her bags and walks beside her friend into the unknown world.
When the nurses arrive they find many soldiers who are very interested in the new recruits. Anne meets one at a party, where they end up discovering an abandoned bungalow set on the beach. The two decide they will repair it themselves, and over time their close friendship turns to a deep, passionate love.
The soldier‘s name is Westry Green, and when his name is called, he’s deployed to one of the other islands where the fighting is fierce. Anne spends most of her time caring for the wounded soldiers, desperately waiting for Westry’s return. Thankfully, Westry does come back and reunites with Anne at their romantic bungalow.
One evening, a shocking crime is committed very close to the bungalow and a girl is murdered. This situation changes the relationship monumentally between Anne and Westry, as the mystery unfolds. Soon Anne’s tour of duty is over and she’s headed back to her home, as Westry is redeployed to the endless war zone. The mystery of that night lingers with Anne and all she wants to do is get justice for the girl before she goes back to the United States. But listening to her heart, she remains quiet when Westry begs her not to say a word. Returning to Seattle and marrying her former fiancé, Anne cannot let go of the past. She dwells on her relationship with Westry, and begins to believe that he was not the loyal love that she’d always hoped him to be.
This story is not your usual ‘wartime romance.’ It is about real people in real situations, and extremely heart-wrenching. If you are an avid reader of WWII fiction, this book will bring about a transformation of sorts. Ms. Jio is so unbelievably talented and skilled that she guides the readers directly to the scene. In fact, everything else seems to disappear as the old bungalow rises from one’s imagination.
Not only is this title a fantastic historical, with the elements of suspense and mystery, but the love story is beyond beautiful. Anne and Westry will stay in the reader’s mind long after the book has come to an end. Ms. Jio’s first book, The Violets of March, had already proven her to be an amazingly talented storyteller, but The Bungalow has carved out a definite ‘niche for life’ in the literary world for this magnificent author.
Reviewer: Amy E. Lignor