The Mango Tree

A Memoir of Fruit, Florida, and Felony

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Pub Date 02 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 01 May 2024

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Eater's Best Food Books to Read This Spring

This “witty, humorous, and heartfelt“ (Cinelle Barnes) memoir navigates the tangled branches of Annabelle Tometich’s life, from growing up in Florida as the child of a Filipino mother and a deceased white father to her adult life as a med-school-reject-turned-food-critic.

When journalist Annabelle Tometich picks up the phone one June morning, she isn’t expecting a collect call from an inmate at the Lee County Jail. And when she accepts, she certainly isn’t prepared to hear her mother’s voice on the other end of the line. However, explaining the situation to her younger siblings afterwards was easy; all she had to say was, “Mom shot at some guy. He was messing with her mangoes.” They immediately understood. Answering the questions of the breaking-news reporter—at the same newspaper where Annabelle worked as a restaurant critic––proved more difficult. Annabelle decided to go with a variation of the truth: it was complicated.

So begins The Mango Tree, a poignant and deceptively entertaining memoir of growing up as a mixed-race Filipina “nobody” in suburban Florida as Annabelle traces the roots of her upbringing—all the while reckoning with her erratic father’s untimely death in a Fort Myers motel, her fiery mother’s bitter yearning for the country she left behind, and her own journey in the pursuit of belonging.

With clear-eyed compassion and piercing honesty, The Mango Tree is a family saga that navigates the tangled branches of Annabelle’s life, from her childhood days in an overflowing house flooded by balikbayan boxes, vegetation, and juicy mangoes, to her winding path from medical school hopeful to restaurant critic. It is a love letter to her fellow Filipino Americans, her lost younger self, and the beloved fruit tree at the heart of her family. But above all, it is an ode to Annabelle’s hot-blooded, whip-smart mother Josefina, a woman who made a life and a home of her own, and without whom Annabelle would not have herself.

Eater's Best Food Books to Read This Spring

This “witty, humorous, and heartfelt“ (Cinelle Barnes) memoir navigates the tangled branches of Annabelle Tometich’s life, from growing up in Florida...

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ISBN 9780316540322
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Featured Reviews

The Mango Tree A Memoir of Fruit, Florida and Felony made me laugh and made me cry. Annabelle Tometich describes a tortured life rich with family drama extending from Florida to the Philippines. The clash between her Filipina mother and her American father plus his mother fuels the saga as tragedy after tragedy slams this beleaguered family. The central role of the mango becomes symbolic of the sweetness along with the bitterness, even lending its evocative juice to the story. This unique book offers an intimate look into a different culture, complicated by the nature of this multicultural family.

Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the opportunity to read this ARC.

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Great memoir.

Annabelle is the oldest daughter of a Filipino mother (top of her class and trained as a nurse who has immigrated to S Florida) and a Northeastern American father (who is an orderly at the same hospital). Annabelle's parents relationship is tumultuous to say the least.

This is a "truth is stranger than fiction" and why I've been finding memoirs so interesting and captivating lately. Annabelle Tometich is no stranger to writing (she is a newspaper journalist and author of other books) and she does a great job in writing her memoir. Kudos. I highly recommend The Mango Tree.

I enjoyed the insight into the Filipino culture and the perceptions of being of mixed ancestry.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for approving my request to read the advance read copy of The Mango Tree in exchange for an honest review. Publication date is 2 April 2024.

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As another Florida native (we do exist!) close to the same age as Annabelle, I can relate to so much of this book. The events that happened as she was growing up and the feelings as she fought for acceptance from her weird family are so perfectly described. I had my own family issues that I'm surprised never involved a call from someone in jail. I did not have to face the challenge of being Filipino, and I really liked learning more about the culture and Annabelle's struggle to feel as though she belonged. College and parts of Annabelle's adulthood brought even more things I could relate to. If you are a Florida child of the 80s, you must read this book.

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“When I was pregnant with my daughter, a family friend told me she knew I was having a girl because daughters steal their mothers’ beauty. I gritted my teeth, stifled a laugh, and managed to walk away without injuring anyone. I dismissed it as internalized misogyny, an old wives’ tale that had somehow survived in this woman’s family well into the year of our lord 2013. Now, however, I wonder. Maybe it’s not that we steal their beauty; maybe it’s that we as daughters, as children, tend to flatten our parents, compressing them into the characters we need them to be. We reduce them to the sidekicks, the villains, the kooky court jesters of our life stories. In some cases, we do this because we have to. Because parents are capable of serious soul-crushing harm, and we must minimize that to survive. But in doing so, we forget they have life stories of their own. They have reasons for their actions. Not always justifiable ones, but ones that should at least be considered.”


This book was one that I could not put down. There depths the author takes you while you follow along on such a unique, but in reality somewhat common family dysfunction had me wanting to find the author at the local grocery store in Fort Meyers and thank her. Without giving too much away, it is one of those books that reminds you everyone is truly living a life behind closed doors. It reminds you to extend grace when your immediate reaction may have been judgement. Zero complaints - pace felt perfect, context and details felt appropriate, millennial references without being corny. Nothing but praise to the author. Will be getting a physical copy for my shelf and suggesting to anyone willing to add such a relatable story of self discovery to their own shelves!

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The Mango Tree is journalist Tometich's memoir of growing as a mixed race (Filipino/white) girl in Florida. A lot of the book focuses on Tometich's complicated relationship with her immigrant mother, but she also details the traumas she endured as a child and the effects these traumas had on her. While the memoir follows her from childhood to adulthood, the details of her adult life are much more sparse and left me with some questions about the evolution of some of her family relationships. Generally, though, Tometich's writing is clear and paints a portrait of a family impacted by abuse, addiction, racism, suicide, and other traumas. Food plays a lesser but still important part of this debut memoir. My experiences reading memoirs by journalists is that they are often dry and lacking in emotion, but I had none of these impressions while reading The Mango Tree.

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