Cover Image: The Moon in the Mango Tree

The Moon in the Mango Tree

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Member Reviews

When we first meet them in 1919. the newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Perkins are on their way to Siam to work on the mission field. Barbara gives up her ambition to become an opera singer in order to support her husband's work. Barbara soon discovers that the people in Nan Valley, which is located north of Siam, do not appreciate her singing talent or her love of music. She is turned down when she offers to teach the kids how to sing, play music, and other musical things.

I liked that the majority of the tale takes place in Thailand's jungles. Barbara soon becomes a working mother who is attempting to strike a balance between work and her family. Despite being in the mission field, this couple does not enjoy their work. They face a test of faith, which is covered in more detail near the book's conclusion.

I like how the writer takes readers to places like Bangkok, Rome, Paris, Thailand, etc. This story is loosely based on the author's mother. The main character didn't appear to be close to God. but is fascinated by Buddhism. The husband does not have a strong faith and rarely demonstrates to Barbara how much he loves her, appreciates her, and fails to safeguard his wife. The plot of the book includes scenes involving drinking, smoking, and extramarital flirtations. Barbara is a fascinating figure who follows her husband’s calling to Siam, develops her own identity and voice in the end.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I requested and received a copy of this book by the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog

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"The Moon in the Mango Tree" is an intimate telling of grandmother's life by a granddaughter.
Spanning the 20s and 30s in the USA, Thailand and Europe, Barbara tries to find who she really is. A wife? A missionary? A mother? An opera singer? Sacrifices must be made because you seemingly can't have it all. In a time of womens suffrage forging the way for freedoms, emotions come into play...loyalty, love, obligation, hopes and dreams.
While the 20s are roaring in Philadelphia, Paris and Rome, life in remote Thailand is often savage and definately backwards. Missionaries strive to convert the locals and Barbara's husband is a doctor treating and teaching these same poor villagers. Barbara is a fish out of water and the missionary folk make her know it.
In a time when you can check your children into boarding school and move to Europe to follow your life's dream...why wouldn't you give it a try? I love how she took chances...
I found some of the missionary blah blah abit tiresome and definitely enjoyed the moments of action in Thailand, becoming totally engaged in the European section of "The Moon in the Mango Tree".
Overall a privilege to share in Pamela Binnings Ewen's family history.
Thanks to NetGalley Blackstone Publishing and the author for my copy.

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Pamela Binnings Ewen brings readers to the early twentieth century in her latest book, which is another historical fiction masterpiece. Following Barbara Bond from her singing days through her marriage, readers travel from Roaring Twenties America to the tropical rainforests of colonial Thailand and across the world to pre-World War II Europe. Readers experience Barbara’s highs and lows of marriage, notably the growth of her family and the losses of her singing and her identity, which has been subsumed under her husband’s name. Ewen has done a fantastic job with bringing so many different settings and characters to life, and she has brought Barbara, glittery and tragic, out of the pages into the world. The novel spans decades of Barbara’s life, and Ewen brings the distinct qualities and events of the different decades to the pages of The Moon in the Mango Tree. Ewen once again lives up to her reputation as one of the top historical fiction writers, and this book is no exception, acting as a fantastic, fascinating gateway to twentieth century Thailand, 1920s America, and pre-World War II Europe, settings which all represent different stages in Barbara’s life and carry different meanings for her. Ewen’s latest book is a fascinating, compelling must-read for historical fiction fans!

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This read is a classic example of a "slow burn/build" read--in a good way. :) I don't usually go for that type of book--like "something please happen already!"--but Ewen has a way with words that kept me interested for that element alone. (I also might have channeled "Anna and the King" a taaaaad bit ... lol!)

I will note, I set the book aside and didn't ultimately finish it; the book is also an example of not being as marketed. Presented (to me, anyway) as Christian fiction, that element really didn't come through aside from--as another reviewer describes it--"joyless missionaries", though I understand faith comes into play more near the end, the epilogue in particular. But the MC's constant "what might have been" wonderings, along with drinking, smoking, and extramarital flirtations, were off putting after a while and felt disproportionately over-described.

I am still moony over that cover, though. :) Beautiful!

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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The Moon In The Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Eden
A novel that is set in the 1920's, with a mix of cultures, customs, traditions, and across 3 continents. America, Asia and Europe.

The story begins in 1916, when Dr Harvey Perkins meets his future wife Barabara Bond a suffragette and an aspiring opera singer, they met during the Vote for Women Now in Philadelphia. They marry and begin a life together when Harvey enlists to go to war in the military medical unit as as army doctor. Barbara holds on to hope during this time for his return As continues her studies in singing opera and music lessons.

The story continues when Dr Perkins returns from the War and is offered an assignment as a Local Doctor in the missionaries located in Jungle City of Nan Valley, Gulf of Siam Bangkok Thailand near the border of Loas. He immediately accepted the offer with such excitement and enthusiasm.

At the same time Barbara is offered an opportunity of a lifetime to continue her studies in music with a top and leading singing instructor with the Chicago Operatic Theatre.

When Barbara finds out that her future plans are now set in place for Thailand, she is forced to give up her own dreams and plans for a future in Opera. It was how things were done then.

In 1919, Harvey and Barbara move to the missionary in Siam. They live in a lovely house with a balcony looking over a garden full Mango Trees, that at night the moon reflects in these trees. Hence the title of the book. This house is located near the hospital where Harvey works.

Harvey meets Dr Putters and his Wife, the current local doctor along with other interesting characters all who live and work in the Missionary. Life in the Missionary make Harvey happy and eager to work, assisting the locals and his patients with their health needs including viruses, malaria and typhoid.

However for Barbara life in the Missionary was difficult. She felt that she could not fit in. Was restricted with her singing and what she was allowed to sing. The customs and traditions fascinated her, but she felt uncomfortable and disheartened because she didn't know how to spend her days.

She was happy and very much in love with Harvey. They had two children, girls. She loves them all. Doesn't want to loose them. She struggles with her next decision does she give up her life in Siam and potentially loose her loving family in order to return to her old lifelong dream of being an Opera Singer.

Eventually, she decides to follow her dreams goes to Europe. Whist there she was recommended to go to see a Opera Singing teacher. His name was Ferrati. He taught Enrico Caruso to sing in Trastevere in Rome. She soon started singing lessons with the dream to peruse her Opera Career.

Was it to late to make this dream a reality, or should she return to her family before she looses them forever.

Will she make the wrong choice or will she have the happy ever after she dreams of.

Such an interesting and thought provoking novel. Based on the story of the Authors Grandparents.

I rate this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

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Based on a true story, The Moon in the Mango Tree is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of missionaries in Siam in the 1920s, in particular Barbara and her husband Harvey. Barbara is a trained opera singer who leaves her voice in many ways to follow her doctor husband into rural Siam. She tries to teach music to locals but doesn't do a good job at integrating and she is shunned by others who feel her music doesn't glorify God. She struggles with her faith and life in general in a far different country. As an expat myself I can relate on some levels. But Barbara is often determined to serve Barbara, not traditional missionary material. This is billed as a Christian Fiction book but I would classify it as Historical Fiction and Women's Fiction.

The writing is lovely with beautiful echoes of history, vividly described. One hundred years ago women often forsook their passions for the sake of their husbands. This story really illustrated the many challenges brilliantly. I really like the uniqueness of the story and would love to read more on the topic.

If you seek a Historical Fiction originally set with a different slant than usual, do read this.

My sincere thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this engrossing novel.

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The Moon in the Mango Tree is based on the author’s grandmother’s story.

In 1919, newly wed Perkins arrive in Siam. Barbara puts her dream of singing in opera aside for her husband’s work as a missionary doctor. In Nan Valley, north of Siam, she quickly finds out that her singing is not appreciated on the mission as some see it as something inappropriate.

Her journey has no clear path as she is meant to follow her husband. That is the custom during her time. She quickly recognizes monks of Buddhist temples as something spiritual and nurturing. What her husband is part of is meant to have a good purpose, but she notices that the way of the natives may not be necessarily the bad way as they’re being portrayed by missionaries.

The main protagonist journey has no clear path once she decides to follow her husband and when she realizes that her singing voice in a remote place is not needed. She struggles with her faith, and finding her voice. For quite some time, she finds living in Nan Valley as wasted years of her life. Then, she searches for meaning and purpose in her life.

The story brings a fascinating character of a woman who grows on a personal level and despite following her husband; she has her own mind and her own voice.

This story is written with elegant prose, exploring the remote corner of the world and known places of Europe, with a character that fascinates.

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I was really looking forward to reading this book from the description but I was expecting a whole different kind of story. I personally know a large number of Christian missionaries serving in a wide variety of areas, none of them at all like the mostly self-serving characters in this story. The plot also moved slowly because of the very detailed descriptions of everything. I realize this is based on a true story and not all people are likeable but I didn’t find even one character that I enjoyed reading about. If this book was actually written to be a Christian novel it sadly missed the mark.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read for my honest review.

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Pamela Binnings Ewen does a great job in creating this historical fiction novel. It had everything that I was hoping for when reading the description. It had a great concept for a historical novel with interesting characters in this story. It had everything that I hoped for and glad I was able to read this.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for granting me an advance eCopy copy of this book in return for my honest opinions.

Pub Date: 17 Oct 2023

The book is portrayed as a Christian novel but it is more of one person's personal struggle becoming to terms with their owns religious beliefs and faith. It also focuses on a woman's struggle during this time period to be true to herself and not bend to family and the social pressures of the time.

There descriptions of Nan Valley of Siam. Philadelphia, Bangkok, Paris, Lausanne, and Rome during this point in history which I enjoyed. They were vividly described and I could see them clearly in my mind.

Barbara's sacrifice to travel as a missionary with her husband, Harvey is portrayed as something specific to the time period, but I feel women today are still expected to give up many of their own dreams so their husbands can persue their own. Men still typically make more than women and we may have come a long way, but most marriage are still not 50/50. Women birth, raise, care for the children and still do most of the household chores.

The story plot needed a bit more and I feel a bit of word chopping could be made, but overall I enjoyed the story.

Four stars for me

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This book takes place in the "Roaring Twenties" era and it shows how the culture changed from a man - centered one to a independent one.
In 1917, Barbara, a pastor's daughter, meet Harvey, a medical student, who was finishing his studies and then served as a medic in France in WWI.
Harvey comes back and decides to become a medical missionary in Siam to help the underprivileged. Barbara never expected to become a missionary, she had been taking singing lessons and she was offered a small part in an opera in Chicago.
Women in 1919 usually obeyed their husbands, so Barbara and Harvey took a ship through the Panama Canal and then to Siam. But the couple was assigned to Nan a small impoverished settlement in Northern Siam. Harvey had a small clinic and Barbara tried to introduce the children to music, but the missionaries they worked with were against any new frills and they did not approve of Barbara. Siam has rainy and dry seasons, Barbara and their baby were stuck in their home during flooding and Harvey decided to go help a village with an outbreak of severe sickness.
Harvey returns and then two missionary couples leave and they are left with one older couple and Barbara has had enough of living at the edge of civilization and being cut off from family and friends...

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