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The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Ewen
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The Moon in the Mango Tree

by Pamela Ewen

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Author: Pamela Binnings Ewen
Title: The Moon over the Mango Tree
Description: This novel is based on the true story of the author’s grandmother who married a doctor and went to Siam as a missionary’s wife. Although the doctor seems to have had a calling, the protagonist, Barbara, certainly doesn’t, and is more concerned with how many parties she will be able to attend in Bangkok than any life of service. She seems horribly hurt when her husband is too busy ministering to a village with a cholera epidemic to pay her attention during the rainy season.
Review source: I received this book (signed by the author) at an ALA—not the most recent, I’m ashamed to admit.
Plot: The plot deals mainly with the conflict Barbara faces: stay with her missionary husband and be a good (but bored) wife and mother or leave him and fulfill her dreams of being an opera singer. Either way (she tries both), she’s a vain, self-centered protagonist who doesn’t seem to care about anyone except herself.
Characters: As I mentioned, Barbara is vain and selfish; the husband Harvey is busy at work so much that the reader sees him only as a husband-placeholder. The babies are too young to be characters in their own right.
Writing style: It was refreshing to read a book about missionaries that wasn’t sickeningly sweet, but this book was extreme in the other direction—I can’t think of a single character who actually displayed a believable semblance of Christian faith.
Audience: The missionary plot might fool some people into thinking this is Christian fiction, but it’s not.
Wrap-up: I can’t really think of a reason to read this book. 2/5* ( )
  gveach | Nov 30, 2013 |
What sets this book apart is the rich descriptions of what life was like for a young missionary couple in Siam (Thailand) during the 1920's. The story is told from Bab's (Barbara's) point of view...the reader follows her from the time she is a young woman with dreams of becoming an opera singer, through her courtship with Harvey, and her reluctance to follow him onto the mission field. Harvey may have been called to be a medical missionary, but Barbara's faith is not as strong, and she resents giving up her comfortable life and her dreams of becoming a singer.
The descriptions of the jungles, villages, wildlife, and people of Siam make this a powerful read at times, but the characters never really came alive for me. I felt like the faith of both of them was superficial, which while realistic did not always make it the most uplifting read. Yet the descriptions were marvelous so read if if you are interesting in finding out more about life in exotic locals and during this time period. ( )
  debs4jc | Nov 14, 2012 |
This is a story that I enjoyed. It is based on the life of the author's grandmother. in the 20s and 30s. It tells of the marriage of Harvey and Babs. Babs wants to be a singer and her chance has arrived to go places when her husband, a doctor, accepts a position as a missionary doctor in Thailand (Siam). Babs is thinking of Bangkok when she reluctantly agrees to go but they are sent to a remote community in the far north of Thailand. Babs struggles there amongst the very conservative missionarys. Her husband thrives on it and Babs feels that even though she loves him he does not need her and she sees no role for herself in this community. The time comes when she cannot stand it any more. She has to get out and find her place and a purpose in life. She goes to Europe with her two daughters. There she is given the chance to learn singing as she wished to earlier, but the time comes when she again has to make a choice. Can she have it all? When she chooses one of two things does that mean the other is lost for ever? Will she in the end find a purpose and a place in the world? I won't give the end away. This is an issue that spans time and is still relevant today when compromises have to be made in a marriage when the two parties goals and ambitions do not sit comfortably together.
It was beautifully written, some great descriptive packages. It gave a reall feel for what life would have been like in Thailand (Siam) at that time ( )
  kiwifortyniner | Feb 11, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed this book, although I found it a little hard to get into. Several members of my family were missionaries in Siam in the early 1900's, so I really liked this glimpse into what their lives might have been like. I didn't realize that it was supposed to be "Christian literature," and found myself wondering why it was so euphemistic in places, and why some of the characters and interactions seemed underdeveloped, but possibly that's why. ( )
  sarahbrassard | Jul 10, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was actually a disappointment. From the start, the writing style was difficult. It seemed forced, contrived. I kept reading, thinking that maybe I’d get used to it. I never did, unfortunately. The book was full of vivid imagery which painted beautiful environments. It did not do a lot by way of a plot, though. An afterword explained that the story was based on real events shared by the author’s grandmother. The author admitted that some of the story had been fictionalized, which, one would hope, would have made the story more engaging, more cohesive.

The story is of Barbara, young suffragette and wannabe opera singer who seems to get “swept up” in a life that she hasn’t asked for. At no point does this woman who claims to be for the equality of men and women stand up to say “This isn’t what I want.” to her husband at first. She goes to a place for which she is completely unprepared. I found that a bit strange for someone so over-the-moon about her chance for the Chicago Opera, someone who believes she has a chance to make her dreams come true to just let it go by the wayside. It seemed out of character. Actually, the picture that’s painted at the beginning of the book about the character doesn’t jive with the character that’s presented in the rest of the book. The beginning shows a self-confident young woman, blooming into adulthood who has the world at her feet, who believes that she has tremendous opportunities to do great things. The rest of the book involves a milktoast young woman who doesn’t seem to know where she is or what she’s about, who is confused, disoriented, and seems perpetually lost. I found her woe-is-me attitude somewhat trying, particularly as she dragged her husband away from things that he cared about because she really didn’t seem willing to try to adapt to the situation, even after several years.

Really, this should be an inspirational story, but it turns out to be a trying account of a selfish and uncertain young woman, interested in fun and frolic, and who doesn’t seem to understand the magnitude of the work that her husband does and could be doing. Everything that happens in their lives becomes a tug of war; it’s either all what he wants because she gives in entirely, or all what she wants because she’s finally made a demand and he acquiesces.

I regret to say that this book, which I had been so excited to read, turned out to be a major disappointment. The style never grew on me and the character failed to connect, failing to make me feel sympathetic to her plights. The imagery was probably the best part of the book, but if I wanted only images, I would read a picture book. I can’t recommend this book for anyone who likes cohesive story, actual plot and sympathetic characters. ( )
  rainbowdarling | Apr 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805447334, Paperback)

Set in Siam and Europe during the 1920s, a glittering decade of change, The Moon in the Mango Tree is based upon the true story of Barbara Bond, a beautiful young opera singer from Philadelphia who is forced to choose between her fierce desire for independence—a desire to create something of her own to give purpose and meaning to her life—and a deep abiding love for her faithful missionary husband whose work creates a gap between them.
 
But when you choose between two things you love, must one be lost forever?
 
Endorsements
 
“Written in gorgeous prose, Pamela Binnings Ewen’s remarkable novel enthralled me like no other has for a very long time. Set in exotic Siam and pre-war Europe, this story of a young woman seeking the truth of herself captured my heart.”

—Bev Marshall, author of Walking Through Shadows and Right as Rain

 

“The Moon in the Mango Tree is an old-fashioned—I mean that in the best sense—tale of love, adventure, faith, and the clash of desire and duty. The writing is wonderful, the story compelling.”

—Bret Lott, author of Jewel (an Oprah's Book Club pick), editor of The Southern Review

 

“Lush with the detail of tropical jungles and the richness of the palaces of Siam, author Pamela Binnings Ewen takes us on a journey we hope will never end. Truly a beautifully crafted story told with music that sings still in my ears.”
—Jane Kirkpatrick, author of A Mending at the Edge

 

“Absolutely wonderful!  I couldn't put it down. I picked up The Moon in the Mango Tree with some trepidation as it wasn't the type of book I usually read.  But I was immediately drawn into the story and into the life of the novel's main character, Babs. Beautifully written, authentically told, Pamela Binnings Ewen has created a compelling story that hits all the right notes.”
—Erica Spindler, New York Times bestselling author of Last Known Victim and See Jane Die

 

"Ewen is a talented writer, and this is a strong addition to Christian fiction."
—Publishers Weekly

"You will have to read this one to see just how far one sometimes has to go to discover what it really is that they want in life, what will make them feel complete. A MUST READ!"
—Beyond Her Book (a Publishers Weekly blog)

"An excellent book."
—aRomanceReview.com

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:38 -0400)

In the 1920s, a young singer is torn between her fierce desire for independence, and a deep abiding love for her husband, a medical missionary who will become a royal physician to the court of Siam. Can she have it all... or does she have to choose?

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