Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Review: The Moon in the Mango Tree

Summary: Set in Siam and Europe during the 1920s, the glittering decade of change, The Moon In The Mango Tree is based upon the true story of Barbara Bond, a beautiful young ex-patriot and 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 seems to create a gap between them. But when you choose between two things you love, must one be lost forever? -- B&H Publishing

I am not a big reader of Christian fiction, but My Friend Amy just might change that! Over that past year or so, she has recommended some Christian fiction books that she thought I might enjoy. I don't know if I'm just reading the "best of" Christian historical romance or if it's that we have similar taste, but I have absolutely loved her recommendations. Every time I finish one of these books, I always tell myself that I need to read more of them. But for some reason, I'm hesitant to pick out Christian books on my own. Despite what I tell myself, I'll probably still depend on Amy for awhile longer -- until I get comfortable with this genre or I find some authors that I know I'll like.

When I asked Amy a few months ago for a recommendation, she couldn't rave enough about THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE by Pamela Binnings Ewen. Since I've learned to trust Amy, I decided to give it a try. I was expecting to enjoy it, but I had no idea how much I would get caught up in this book. I couldn't put it down! THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE is not a little book (it's over 450 pages); however, I read it in less than a day. It was that good!

There are so many wonderful things about this novel that I'm not exactly sure where to start so I think I'm just going to hit a few of highlights! First of all, I just loved the plot of this novel. I found Babs and her story to be so interesting. I think part of the reason is because I liked the time period in which the book took place -- the Roaring 20s. I have always considered this era to be fascinating because it seemed so glamorous to me and it represented a time of huge change for women. And, as if I didn't like the story enough, when I finished this book I learned that the story was actually based on the author's grandmother. Maybe that's one of the reasons that the author was able to bring this story to life so well!

I definitely appreciated the character of Babs and how well the author developed her character. In so many ways, Babs was just a woman who was ahead of her time. She had aspirations to be a famous opera singer, yet when she marries Harvey she reluctantly chooses to put her marriage and his career over her. Harvey decides to do missionary work in the jungles of Siam without truly thinking of the effect it will have on his wife. I absolutely loved how Babs tried to reconcile her own desires with her husband's. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have put up with one-tenth of what she had to face!

In addition, I thought Babs' spiritual crisis was handled so well in this novel. I could totally understand why Babs began to doubt her own beliefs as well as the missionary work; and I think readers will relate to Babs' character. I loved that Babs wasn't perfect (or even close to it) and there were definitely times that I didn't agree with her actions. However, she worked through her doubts and became closer to God as a result of them. I found the message in this novel to be extremely uplifting, and I loved how the author didn't "hit you over the head" with it.

THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE is Ms. Ewen's second novel; and if her first novel is even half as good as this one, I'd love to read it. She also has a new one coming out in mid 2010 called DANCING ON GLASS which I'm very much looking forward to. I thought Ms. Ewen's writing was beautiful, and I loved this story unfolded. Sometimes, I have a hard time with books that are very descriptive because I find the writing to be a little flowery; however, Ms. Ewen did a wonderful job of describing the places in this novel. I almost felt as if by reading this novel, I was able to travel to Siam, the Orient, Paris and Rome. If you'd like to learn more about the author, I found a very interesting interview with her where she explains some of the inspiration for this book.

I'm pretty sure that a few members of my book club wouldn't really appreciate THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE because of it's Christian message; however, I do think that it is an ideal book to discuss among Christian friends. I was fascinated by the character of Babs, and I think her actions and her feelings are very worthy of further discussion. In addition, I think the spiritual crisis that she was facing is extremely interesting. I was happy to find a reader's guide for THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE, but I really don't think you'd have a problem finding things to talk about on your own.

I absolutely adored THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE, and I know I'm not alone! This historical romance novel was also nominated for a 2009 Christy Award. If you enjoy Christian historical fiction with a little romance thrown in, then I highly recommend this book!

Thanks for the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

12 comments:

Linda said...

Like you, I've tended to steer clear of Christian fiction. But a new daughter-in-law has prompted me to give it a try. I'd love to win this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

Jo-Jo said...

Thanks for the review. My book club does like to read Christian fiction every now and then so I may have to recommend this one to them.

Amy said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the book, Julie! I actually didn't find the spiritual message to be very overt in this book, LOL. A lot of spiritual searching but not very didactic. ;)

bermudaonion said...

You were smart to go straight to the pro for a suggestion. Wow, you're reading almost as fast as Swapna! I'm so glad you enjoyed this book so much.

Deborah said...

i LOVED this book. and you can count it for the Christy challenge toO!

carolsnotebook said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. I love the cover, too.

kerrycharacters said...

I've never tried Christian fiction. I will give it a try. I love your blog - we share many of the same interests so I will be listing you as a favourite. I live in the South of France at the moment. I have been working as a human rights lawyer for much of my career but have now started writing.

Barbara Roberts said...

I'm surprised that so many readers are not excited about Christian fiction, especially when it's such a welcome relief from the nearly acid strength stuff on tv and the movies. I shied away as well until I was hooked on Jan Karon. Now I pass by the Ludlum and Grisham genre and go right for the good stuff! Have to! I've written two myself of late: What a Christmas!" and "Not In My Wildest Dreams", just good clean funny stories to take at bedtime.

Pamela EWen said...

Hello friends - Thanks for the wonderful review of Mango Tree Booking Mama!! And I love what your readers have to say. From my perspective, I think of Christian fiction as just a good story, dealing with big issues that live on today, but with a Christian world view, not preaching. If you're interested, I have a photo album on my web site with pictures of the people and places in the book - pamelaewen.com. My grandmother brought these back from Siam with her and no one in the family knows who took them! Pamela

Marg said...

Once upon a time I used to read a lot of Christian fiction, but I haven't read any in years.

I must say that the setting on this one was enough to capture my attention!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I don't consider myself a reader of Christian fiction, either, but I may be defining it too narrowly - this surely sounds like something I would like.

So nice of the author to leave a comment and point us to her online photos.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

Awesome review. This one sounds fantastic. I enjoy Christian fiction, but I've found it to be inconsistent. Some authors are so good and others are preachy or overly light. I suppose it's the same way with any genre though.