By Lorraine López (Grand Central Publishing, $12.99)
The Sea Breeze Bungalows, on Clinton Street off Alvarado Street in Los Angeles, were constructed in the early 1940s to provide housing for single working women and bachelors. Though the Sea Breeze units are some forty miles from the Pacific Ocean, the developer, clearly torn between Art Deco and beachcomber styles, compromised by constructing these peach-colored cottages with one porthole window apiece and then raising a sign decorated with painted seashells on the front lawn. The largest of the five bungalows, originally inhabited by the owner, sits at the tip of the pentagon, farthest from the street.
Two decades after construction, this three-bedroom home is now rented by the Gabaldón family: a widowed utility worker, with five children, and an elderly Pueblo woman. The four girls in the family share the largest bedroom, while the one boy, the middle child, sleeps in a youth bed in his father’s room. The smallest bedroom belongs to Fermina, the aged housekeeper. Crammed into her quarters are a battered oak dresser with mismatched knobs, a flecked and clouded mirror, an oval hook rug at the center of the dark wood floor, and a single bed, heaped with folded quilts, near the wall. Beside the bed and aligned with the outer wall, just under the window, sits a bird’s-eye-maple trunk.