The Bungalow – Sarah Jio

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bungalow

 

Sometimes, when a book ends, you want nothing more than the opportunity to look the author square in the eye and say
“what…… the fuck”.

Usually when this feeling strikes me, I immediately vow to cut connections with a book, much like one must do when a lover has ripped your heart to shreds. I vow to myself to not think about the thing which broke my heart, not to fantasize about how things could have ended differently. Mostly, after this happens, I try not to eat a double fudge brownie, topped with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce….. smothered in chocolate chips.

Sarah Jio, you have broken my heart, and to make matters worse, I can not stop thinking about your stupid, fabulous, wonderful, romantic novel “The Bungalow”.

“The Bungalow” is a novel which, on the surface, seems innocent, light, harmless. Yes, you are damned right I judged this book by it’s cover; a cover which depicts a sunny, warm, tropical scene. I judged the depiction of a bright yellow hibiscus flower to mean happiness. I, dear readers, was dead wrong.

This book tells the story of a young nurse named Anne who arrives on the island of Bora-Bora near the end of World War II. Anne has left Seattle to have one last adventure before she settles down and marries a man she has known since childhood.
Unexpectedly, Anne strikes up a friendship with a soldier named Westry. The pair discover a dilapidated bungalow hidden just off the beach behind bushes filled with bright yellow hibiscus.

Anne and Westry create their own world in this bungalow, and eventually, their relationship turns into something more. From the get-go, the conversation between Anne and Westry sparkles and jumps from the page. The chemistry between these two is tangible, as is their connection.

Just as their love seems to be turning into true, infallible, life altering love, the pair witness a horrible crime taking place on the sand in front of the bungalow. A rift has been created between Anne and Westry through witnessing this trauma, a rift which through various circumstances, Anne comes to believe is insurmountable.

After you have finished this book, it is much like looking back on your first love…. when your heart was initially broken, you couldn’t believe it could get better, but with time (in this case, the last few pages of the novel), things do become much better. You find yourself looking back with fondness instead of sadness.

Though this book is a bit of an emotional trial, it is a very worthy read. An extraordinary, magnificent love story which will stay with you long after you have finished the last page.

In conclusion, I direct the following words to the author, said best by Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) from “10 Things I Hate About You”:

I hate it when you make me laugh,
even worse when you make me cry.
…………
But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you,
not even close…
not even a little bit…
not even at all.

 

 

Synopsis below pasted from chapters.indigo.ca:

“A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting. In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-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 fiancé, 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 from the author of Blackberry Winter and The Violets of March, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.”

 

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Lost Lake – Sarah Addison Allen

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“Eby knew all too well that there was a fine line when it came to grief. If you ignore it, it goes away, but then it always comes back when you least expect it. If you let it stay, if you make a place for it in your life, it gets too comfortable and it never leaves, It was best to treat grief like a guest. You acknowledge it, you cater to it, then you send it on it’s way.”        From “Lost Lake”

This post was supposed to be a review of “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. It is a fantastic, amazing and thought provoking book. That being said, it is a book about a suicidal quadriplegic. When I was reading it, the crying got ugly. If my 4 year old niece was observing me, she would have said, “Auntie, why you read that?” As my niece will learn when she gets older, as women, we all enjoy a really good ugly cry. You know the kind. You are leaking out of every orifice on your face, and the sounds you are making are those of a toddler wrestling an angry primate. After the ugly cry has finished, you reach for chocolate, and need a soul cleansing, “ahhhhhhhh” experience. Enter “Lost Lake”, by Sarah Addison Allen.

Sarah Addison Allen is my go-to author when I need a book that will leave me with “happy-fuzzies”, yet isn’t vapid, like most happy fuzzy books. Her writing is filled with a quality akin to magic. Not cauldrons and broomsticks, but unexpected and mystical elements which make their way into everyday life. Her books are so well done that after finishing one, I can not help but happy cry (yet another female ritual the niece will discover once she hits adolescence).  “Lost Lake”, released on January 21st of this year, not only has magic, but depth and developed characters. Allen provides back-story on her characters, but does it in such a way that you are not drawn away from the main plot.  What is so unique about the world Sarah Addison Allen has created, is that it is not ruled by magic that falls into tangible boundaries. Occasionally, a ghost will appear, but her books are not ghost stories. A drawing of a butterfly can come to life when graced with a single breath. A child may turn into an alligator just by wishing for it, and a seemingly ordinary bracelet has ability to trap the heart of any unhappily married man.

“Lost Lake” opens with Kate, having just “woken up” from a year of overwhelming grief. Her mother-in-law Cricket has taken over while Kate has been “asleep”. Kate’s house and her late husband’s business have been sold, and her things have been packed up to be moved to Cricket’s that very day. Her unique, ostentatious daughter Devin has been made to give up her polka-dot and striped outfits, replaced by Cricket with wholly unimaginative ensembles from the Gap. Kate comes to the realization that if she wants to preserve her daughter’s spirit, she needs to take hold of their lives, and she does this by taking Devin to the last place she remembers feeling truly carefree; her Great Aunt Eby’s splendid property, Lost Lake.

So, the next time you find yourself at the end of an indulgent ugly-cry, this book is a wonderful way to fast-track to the soul-cleansing “ahhhhhh”.

Pasted below from chapters.indigo.ca:

“From the author of “New York Times “bestseller “Garden Spells” comes a beautiful, haunting story of old loves and new, and the power of the connections that bind us forever…The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future. That was half a life ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby’s past. Her husband George is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that’s left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the Southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desiresIt’s a lot, but not enough to keep Eby from relinquishing Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand, and calling this her final summer at the lake. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door. Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer… and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago. One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren’t sure they needed in the first place: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended. Can they find what they need before it’s too late? At once atmospheric and enchanting, “Lost Lake “shows Sarah Addison Allen at her finest, illuminating the secret longings and the everyday magic that wait to be discovered in the unlikeliest of places.” 

P.S. If you enjoyed “Lost Lake”, Sarah Addison Allen has published a free e-short story called “Waking Kate”, which a prequel to “Lost Lake”.

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

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I have a confession to make. I am a literary sexist. I would even go as far as to say that I am a literary sexist sow.  If you asked me to list my 10 favorite authors, they would all be female. Not just female, but female authors who write from a female perspective. Oh sure, I don’t mind the odd narrative thrown in the midst of a book written from the male sub-character’s point of view, but I will admit, I usually skim those pesky paragraphs to get back to the point of view I really care about. The female protagonist!

I digress. Every year for Christmas, I make a list of books which I would like to see under the tree, and every year, my dear, sweet Dave dutifully goes to our local independent bookstore and spends way more on books for me than I rightfully need. (68 books sitting in the “to-read” pile beside my bookshelf. Need I say more). I choose the books which I would like to receive by perusing various “Best of” lists. The Rosie Project kept showing up on all of my go- to lists (Globe and Mail bestsellers, Amazon/Chaperts Best Sellers lists). I didn’t pay much attention because, well, the author’s first name, Graeme. That’s a boy’s name! And the protangonist: Don Tillman. For those of you who are just as swift as I am, Don is another boy’s name! Gah, how readable could this book really be?

After coming across the Rosie Project for the umpteenth time, I finally read the synopsis (pasted below from chapters.indigo.com)

“The feel-good hit of 2013, The Rosie Project is a classic screwball romance about a handsome but awkward genetics professor and the woman who is totally wrong for him A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea.He will design a questionnaire-a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire-to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy like no other. It is arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, and it will make you want to drink cocktails.”

This book is the most compulsively readable book I have come across in eons. I read it in one marathon sitting while the World Juniors were playing in the background on a lazy Boxing Day.

Don Tillman is a protagonist who you want to root for. At first, he comes across as rigid and frustrating, but in contrast, has moments where he is so unassuming and human that you fall in love with his character almost immediately. At the beginning of the book, it is hinted at that Don may suffer from un-diagnosed Asperger Syndrome. As you get to know him though, you realize that he is completely unaware that all is not as it should be! He never acts or thinks like a victim of a mental abnormality, and as the book progresses, you begin to completely disregard that his way of thinking is not the status quo. He is self assured and unapologetic.

Though this is a book about a man with Asbergers, it is even more so a beautiful, silly, happy-fuzzy, feel good love story.  As you fall in love with Don’s character, you fall in love with Rosie along with Don, and fall in love with the idea of Rosie and Don as a couple. It is a book which is written unlike so many romantic stories, in that Don and Rosie build an amazing friendship, and the romantic aspect sneaks up, almost as an afterthought. Graeme Simsion is able to write Don and Rosie each with their own incredibly unique voice.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to be immersed in a book that will leave them cheering. It is also a must read for anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t quite get “normal”.

In conclusion, I would like to end with my favorite quote from the Rosie Project, though be forewarned, it is from the end of the book.

“I am able to hug Rosie. This was the issue that caused me the most fear after she agreed to live with me. I generally find body contact unpleasant, but sex is an obvious exception. Sex solves the body contact problem. We are now also able to hug without having sex, which is obviously convenient at times.”