Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bookshelf: Jennie Nash



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My coworker passed Jennie Nash's "The Last Beach Bungalow" on to me last week after reading it in two days. It's not due back to the Medford Public Library until late next week and she knows how quickly I devour books so she handed it over.
I have to admit to being a snob when it comes to books. I don't own a library card for various reasons. 1.) I'm lazy and getting a card would require me going to the library. 2.) I prefer to read a book that hasn't been manhandled or even touched. I like knowing that I'm the first to rub my fingers across the ink, to crack open the binding. But I made an exception this one time.
You know the way you feel about a favorite article of clothing? It might be a faded pair of jeans or an old tee shirt riddled with holes or maybe a ruddy pair of sneakers. For me, it's my Harvard sweatshirt. Over the years it's changed - worn thin, the cuffs tattered, the neck ties have grown to resemble dredlocks and a while back I cut the collar so that it rests in a V against my neck. The way I feel when I put that sweatshirt on, I can't quite put it into words, is how I felt while reading "The Last Beach Bungalow".
We begin on the anniversary of five years since April Newton has had cancer. It's a milestone, a huge moment, and as she stands in line at Subway trying to decide what to order for lunch she burst into tears. Having fast food was never a part of what she envisioned for her big day. But her life is in totaly chaos and a celebration isn't really in the cards. She, her husband and daughter are living in an apartment while their dream home, a McMansion with ocean views and bamboo floors, is nearing completion. April and her husband haven't been intimate in six months. And April's daughter, at fourteen, barely clues her in on what's going on in her life. And then April sees an ad for a contest where a beach bungalow, the last of its kind (McMansions are rising up everywhere) will be sold for 300k to a buyer "with heart" and suddenly April finds the thing pulling her back to earth and she falls in love.
I felt like a lot happened in the book and at the same time there wasn't much going on. It's because different moments in life have different values of importance to people. A cancer milestone, moving into a new home, reading an article and admitting to oneself that you haven't made love to your spouse in much too long and that things aren't quite right with the relationship, realizing that your daughter has fallen in love for the first time, the holiday season, falling in love with a house hold different value for people. Someone might read this book and think nothing happened and it was slow. And yet another person (me) will read the book and be shocked at how much happened in such a small space. Because of the way it's presented, days disected into small blurbs, you don't realize quite what's happened until things have quietly unfolded before you.
I thought Jennie Nash did a beautiful job in creating the characters and making them believable and organic. I also thought her imagery and backstories were lovely. I've never actually stepped foot in Redondo Beach and yet I'm pretty sure I just spent a few days there. And I'm kind of sad that I am finished and must now move on to something else. C'est la vie.
If you're interested in checking out more about Jennie Nash, hop on over here.
Happy reading!
Stephanie
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