Reading: Monique and the Mango Rains

Monique and the Mango Rains book coverAs a Peace Corps volunteer, I knew I wasn’t going to “save” the world. I also knew that if I could touch even one life in a significant way, then all the dirt, frustration and sickness would be worth it. If I had had an experience even remotely similar to Kris Holloway’s, I would have been absolutely ecstatic.

In her book Monique and the Mango Rains, Kris shares the day-to-day struggles and triumphs of her work with a village midwife in Mali. Monique is a woman in her early 20s with few supplies, inadequate space, a multitude of medical problems to treat and not enough hours in the day to tend to everything. In addition to her work as a midwife, Monique also deals with a deadbeat husband, cares for two families (hers and her husband’s) and doesn’t receive her entire paycheck. And yet she is smart, inquisitive, creative, compassionate and 100 percent likable. If I were Kris, I would have been smitten to have Monique as my Peace Corps partner as well.

Monique and the Mango Rains isn’t a saga of incredible proportions but rather the story of a simple village, the people who live there and the complex issues that arise in a culture where discrimination toward women and corruption are commonplace. Kris’ job in the village is to assist Monique with her midwifery duties in the rundown birthing house, but nothing is *just* a  job in the Peace Corps. She also gets tied up in the politics of the village by helping Monique spend time with her true love Pascal, lobbying for Monique to be paid her entire salary and going through the proper channels for approvals to overhaul the birthing house.

I loved this book because it was authentic. Things did not always go as planned, Kris suffered from illnesses and children passed away from starvation and dehydration. That’s life, and it’s not perfect. I also loved this book because I can personally relate with the Peace Corps experience that fluctuates between the highest highs and the lowest lows. I felt Kris’ frustration, and I also cheered for her when she achieved even the tiniest of accomplishments.

One of the most striking aspects of Monique and the Mango Rains is that the book does not end with Kris’ Peace Corps service. Instead, the final chapter covers Monique’s visit to the United States six months after Kris’ service ends and the volunteer’s eventual return to her Malian village. Things are not all rosy in the Peace Corps, but small things can be incredibly satisfying, and I found myself cheering for both Monique and Kris as they defied the odds of delivering quality care in a remote corner of the world.

Monique and the Mango Rains is a relatively quick and easy read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a satisfying, honest read. It provides a good picture of Peace Corps service as well as life in a remote village in a developing nation.

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