Title:The Last Beach Bungalow
Author: Jennie Nash
Length: 271 pages
I love beaches, and despite my father’s distaste for them, bungalows as well. So naturally, the cover of the book moved me the instant I saw it. But it took me awhile to sit down to read it. I was saving it. I was saving it for when I needed to lose myself in a fictional bungalow romance. The romance, of course, being with the house, not between people.
This is a beautiful story that Nash has written. All that is within is conveyed on the front cover except for the holiday aspect – the story revolves around Christmas time. But maybe that’s what Christmas looks like in California. I don’t know. I’ve never been there.
The story is about April Newton, a cancer survivor, who is building her dream home with her husband. Except she has an impression of her McMansion that stems from the state of her lackluster life, and instead she seeks wisdom and warmth from a beach bungalow.
The owner of this 1928 original bungalow is seeking a buyer with heart. What would you give – besides money – to live here? Bring your offers, your stories, and a promise to preserve and protect. Winner will pay $300,000.
The story is lovely. Lines like, “I wanted to hear the sadness out loud that I felt so silently in my bones,” trickle through and keep you turning the page. It’s about coldness and warmth, on a level beyond the skin, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. But my favorite part was at the end, in the reader’s guide, when the publisher thought to ask teary eyed book clubbers: “Have you ever fallen in love at first sight with anything or anyone – a person, a dress, a dog, or a house?”
Yes. Several times over, yes. With a dog (a beagle, Geoffrey Chaucer), with a bike (a 1960’s Sears Cruiser), with two of my previous homes, and finally – the most appropriate answer – a bungalow.
Recently, we’ve been home hunting. We’ve been redefining our dreams, our lives, our priorities. Is it stuff? Is it land? Is it the right neighborhood or is it being debt free? I’ve dreamed of beaches in Georgia, of hole in the wall houses in Galveston, of land in the country, of many places… but briefly, I was madly in love with a bungalow being sold by a widow – just like in the story, but there was no contest.
It had teal trim, just down the road from a university I once planned on attending. It was for auction as is for $55k. There were fig and citrus trees in the back, just behind a box garden that was just beyond a patio I could have lounged on for hours. There was a lean-to that had been enclosed to make a faux laundry room and I nearly cried with glee when I walked into it, because I’d been having discussions all year with my editor as to whether the general public these days would know what a lean-to was. The walls in the lean-to weren’t finished and I dreamed of finishing them myself and painting them sunshine yellow. I could see myself folding laundry with my dogs at my feet, my husband’s tools in the corner.
Just inside the back door was kitchen with custom made cabinets, floor to low ceiling. They had been made by the man who had lived there. Like Nash’s story, the daughter was the one showing the house. She had tales about her father and uncle making those cabinets. I envisioned a vintage style refrigerator where the appliance should go.
Hardwood floors, a cast iron stairway her father had welded himself. The living room was my least favorite, but it would do, I didn’t plan on spending much time there. The downstairs bedrooms were cozy and the attic was built out with two more – one large and strangely shaped with nooks and cranies to tuck oddly built shelves. I wanted to hide my library there and create a writer’s nook – or make it my daughter’s bedroom. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed like a nerdy-princess’s dream tower. Also upstairs was a much newer restroom than was down below and a tiny bedroom fit for a doll – or a cool playroom nook.
My best friend drove me there to look. My daughter twirled around the rooms telling me she’d live there (which was a big deal since we were leaving the only house she’d ever known). We walked the property, me saying awkward and possibly inappropriate things in my distraction and awe while my best friend asked the real questions. I kept going in and out. I mentally filled the house with my own things and started visualizing what didn’t fit going into the trash can. Outside there was a garage clearly meant for a carpenter. The yard clearly meant for dogs and a garden. I was dying to show my husband. The neighborhood wasn’t quite right, but the house was a dream. Small and quaint and restful.
Like April Newton, I wanted to rest there. I could see myself there for years to come, if only it would offer me the peace and coziness away from the outside world that I desire most. Like April Newton, it was not meant for me. I can’t find any photos of it online, which must mean it’s off the market. I only hope that whoever finally found it is treating it well.
There’s just something about bungalows.