Monique and the Mango Rains (thoughts)
(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!)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!