The Last Beach Bungalow
by Jennie Nash

Penguin Group/Berkley Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-425-219270.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 01/30/2008

Fiction: Mainstream

I didn't plan to stay up late and read this book in one sitting, but that is exactly what happened. From the opening lines, I was drawn into April's world and wanted to keep reading to see where she was headed. Perhaps some of the connection with April and her story stems from my own cancer survivorship. Perhaps it stems from the ever-present search for the real sense of "home" and its significance. Perhaps Nash has just written a really engrossing story with very real characters—characters with whom I was able to instantly connect. No matter where the connection came from, this was a heartwarming read. And I am glad that I stayed up late to finish it!

April Newton has reason to celebrate. She is a five-year breast cancer survivor. But for April, the cloud that is called "cancer" won't allow her to fully surrender to living as a survivor. Trapped by the fears, doubts, and "unknowingness" that come with a cancer diagnosis, April finds herself confused and frightened about her own future as well as that of her marriage and her family.

With the cancer survivorship as the backstory, readers are introduced to April, her husband, Rick, and daughter Jackie as they are in the midst of building a new home that Rick designed for April at the time of her diagnosis. In an unexpected turn of events, as the Newtons' move-in-date approaches, April happens upon a beach house that is for sale far below market value "to the right buyer," as defined by its owner, Peg Torrey. Believing that she is meant to live in this house, April sets out to be the winner of the right to buy the property. But in the process, she is confronted with the real meaning of home and what it would take to make her feel the happiness she longs to feel as a survivor. In the process, she learns more than she could ever hope to learn about not only herself, but her husband, her marriage, her family and the other truly important things in life.

Author Jennie Nash writes with beauty and grace about the inner turmoil of a cancer survivor's quest to put the negative behind her and to see only positive. She also writes with the voice of authority; she is a breast cancer survivor. Nash resides in Torrance, California, and is the author of a book of essays and two non-fiction books, Raising a Reader, and The Victoria's Secret Catalog Never Stops Coming: And Other Lessons I Learned from Breast Cancer. This is her first novel. Visit her website.

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