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Monique and the Mango Rains (thoughts)

October 1, 2008

(Note from Eva: I did say yes to the boy who asked me out. He’s cute, and all of the conversations we’ve had were funny and interesting. And he said please!)

Isn't Monique beautiful?  I really love this cover.

Isn't Monique beautiful? I really love this cover.

Ok, because I don’t have much time I’m going to do the interview format again. And, I’m fairly certain I totally stole this idea from Nancy (aka Bookfool). Sorry about not mentioning you last time Nancy!!

So, we’re talking about Kris Hollaway’s Peace Corp memoir, Monique and the Mango Rains? Didn’t you read that, like, forever ago?
Um, I did read it back in July. And I could have sworn I already reviewed it; in fact, I noticed it wasn’t in my directory and went looking for the review. Which is when I realised, much to my horror, that apparently I must’ve dream blogged.

Horror? That’s a pretty strong word!
Well, I specifically requested this to review, and I really, really liked it, so you know that old Catholic guilt thing.
What made you request it?
As long-time readers of my blog know, I was planning on joining the Peace Corps after college. I had my nomination: teaching English in francophone subsaharan Africa. But I didn’t get my medical clearance. So, I read a lot of Peace Corps books during my senior year, and I’m always curious about RPCV (returned Peace Corps volunteer) memoirs.

What was so great about it?
Kris’ attitude! She was in Mali, which is one of the poorest countries in Africa (it’s on the western side of the Sahara, in case you’re curious), working with a midwife, seeing people in really difficult situations every day, but the book is still positive and uplifting. In fact, this is definitely the most positive Peace Corps memoir I’ve ever read. She doesn’t sugarcoat things, but somehow even when she’s talking about getting violently, disgustingly ill, or trying to help a woman with an abusive husband, her optimism just shines through. She also went into the situation very humble, without any airs because she was ‘Western.’ And you could tell she tried really hard to fit into the culture, or at least understand it. She just seems like an incredible person.

Ok: what didn’t you like about the book?
Well, the writing style wasn’t super-strong; it got the story told, but there wasn’t a particularly nice style. But that’s a minor quibble: I gave this one five stars.

Who do you think should read it?
Everyone! Kris really brings you into the rhythm of Mali rural life, and as I mentioned above, even the sad parts didn’t bring me down. That being said, the epilogue made me cry. This is one of those non-fiction books I think fiction lovers would enjoy as well; being a memoir, it has quite a bit of dialogue. It’s definitely a coming-of-age story, but it’s also a window into a completely different world.

Well, you’ve sold me! Anything else you’d like to add?
By a strange coincidence (I was already planning on posting this review today), Kris Hollaway wrote an editorial today in the International Herald Tribune about the charity she started to help Mali midwives. But don’t go read it if you haven’t read the book yet and don’t want to know what’s in the epilogue! The book has a website with a wonderful author interview. In it, she explains that what makes the book different from other RPCV memoirs is the close friendship between herself and Monique, which I would have to second.

Any last words?
Read this book! It’s great! Some of the proceeds from sale of the book go towards building a rural health clinic (you can also donate directly). 1 in 12 Mali women in childbirth; as a privileged, modern Western woman, the horror of that reaches right down into my soul. As soon as I get my first paycheck, I plan on donating to the organisation. Every little counts!

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2008 8:14 pm

    So will you be reviewing the date? :-D

  2. October 1, 2008 10:08 pm

    I love the cover too. That was the first thing that attracted me to the book. Nice Review.

  3. October 2, 2008 5:36 am

    I must read this!! My sister joined the PC and left earlier this year to live in Cameroon.

  4. J.S. Peyton permalink
    October 2, 2008 6:53 am

    I’m still considering joining the Peace Corps. The only thing that’s holding me back is being so far away from my family. They really had a hard time of it when I lived in Japan for a year. Who knows how they’d feel about my being in Africa for two!

    Anyway, now that I’ve finished totally talking about myself… this book sounds great! I’ve seen it around the blogosphere a couple of times but this is the first time I’ve actually wanted to add it to my TBR list. Now, onto the list it goes… :)

  5. J.S. Peyton permalink
    October 2, 2008 6:53 am

    P.S. Have fun on your date!

  6. October 2, 2008 7:38 pm

    Make sure you give us a full review of your date along with a star rating :-)

  7. October 8, 2008 4:10 am

    Well, you TOTALLY sold me, too! I must get my hands on that book! It not only sounds like a wonderful read, but Annie and I just started world geography. And of course one of the benefits of home schooling is that we can venture far and wide. And I’ve been looking for a few books like this to throw in. I’m also thinking about The House at Sugar Beach…you haven’t happened to read that, have you? If so, opinions? And while I’m here pestering you anyway, let me just ask if you think King Leopold’s Ghost is too brutal for Annie? (I really sort of wanted her to read I wish to inform you…, but decided that she really was just to young for it.)

Trackbacks

  1. Women Unbound: a New Reading Challenge « A Striped Armchair
  2. It’s that time: the 2008 Reading Wrap-Up « A Striped Armchair
  3. Monique and the Mango Rains, by Kris Holloway « The Zen Leaf

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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