Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: The Moon in the Mango Tree

The Moon in the Mango Tree
by Pamela Binnings Ewen
2.5 out of 5 stars

Oh boy, I have total mixed feelings about how to rate this book. I usually do, because I know that even if I disliked the book, this any many others that I give low ratings are still decent fiction stories that most people would probably find enjoyable. I don't know, I just feel like there are so many GOOD and GREAT books, I don't want to waste my time on the masses of what my college Literature proff called "crap-o-rama".

By the time this book became available to me on, I had completely forgotten who had recommended it to me or what it was about. It begins as the story of a young woman who gives up her singing career to join her husband in medical missions in Thailand in the early 1900's. There are sort of two stages to the book. The first half is the story of their experiences in a tiny village in Northern Thailand, and the second is later years spent as secular socialites in the big cities of Thailand and Europe. At first I thought it was going to be a classic lame Christian fiction, but it wasn't. The main character basically gives up her faith and Protestants are portrayed in a very bad light. That made things interesting because I was curious to know which life-philosophy the author was going to go with.

Ultimately what does make it a powerful story is that it's based on the true story of the life of the author's grandmother. Although the writing wasn't awesome, what I found most engaging was the inner battle of the main character between Independence and being the supportive wife. When she chooses to support her husband she feels useless and meaningless. When she leaves to pursue her singing career she weighs the potential loss of her husband and children.

What really drove me crazy is that the main character was SO selfish and narcissistic. Her perspective on life in the village just made me want to wring her neck and yell at her to suck it up and get on with life instead of sitting around the house moaning about how awful life is. Later in the book when she moans about having given up all of her dreams to support her husband's career I STILL found it hard to sympathize with her because I felt like she never tried to find a middle ground, to discuss things with her husband and find a way for them both to pursue their dreams at once. She just played the victim.

So - it was an interesting story but ultimately I rather disliked the main character and the writing wasn't fantastic. The final philosophy is only portrayed in the last few pages and actually seemed ridiculous to me after reading an entire book of her wrestling with faith and doubt and various religions.


  1. Ja I know what you mean. If the main character doesn't inspire passion and if the writing isn't grabbing you, what is the point of reading the book?

    Ever start a novel, give it a shot and then bail because it's so bad or just lame?

  2. Yes.... but.... not very often! Usually I try to be dicriminating about what I read so that I don' ever get to that point. Someimtes a bad one just slips through!