Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway is the story of the author’s 2 year stint as a young Peace Corp volunteer in the remote African country of Mali. Kris spends that time as an assistant to 24 year old Monique, a remarkable midwife in the town of Nampossela, where women give birth on a concrete slab then go back to their work in the fields a few hours later, where the maternal and infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world (1 in 12 mothers die in childbirth, 1 in 5 babies don’t live to see their 5th birthday). There is no running water, no trained doctors, medical equipment or emergency procedures. Food and water are scarce, flies are a constant problem, and malaria, intestinal parasites and AIDS are all too common ailments.
Monique, armed with a few months training, the ability to read, and a happy, willing spirit, fights to keep women alive. She passionately and desperately tries to care for women and children and better their lives under deplorable conditions. There is much information here about the birthing center and midwifery, however it is Kris’s decade-long friendship with Monique that is the heart and soul of this book. They grow close and discuss their lives and emotions on an intimate level reserved for only the very best of friends. Kris writes openly and plainly about her time in Mali, creating an intimate and unsentimental portrait of the people and this beautiful friendship.
Kris meets John, her future husband and another Peace Corps volunteer, in Mali. Their relationship blossoms under the watchful eye of Monique as together they work to renovate the birthing center, cover wells, dig holes for medical waste, and negotiate with community leaders to improve the local healthcare situation.
Monique and the Mango Rains offers so much for a book club to discuss. Themes in the book include family relationships, poverty, religious differences, the place of women in African society, hunger, malnutrition, power struggles, parenting, birth control, marriage, childbirth, volunteerism, and community. Holloway is respectful of the people and their culture and never has that too-frequent American way of being condescending.
I loved this book! It was so inspiring and such a powerful testament to the human spirit and to women’s friendship. Proceeds from sales of this book will help expand the capabilities of a clinic that has since been built in Monique’s name (Clinique Monique), as well as provide school tuition assistance and healthcare for Monique’s children. So I’m going to dig into my wallet and buy one copy of Monique and the Mango Rains to give away to one lucky reader, and I will also donate $1 for every comment left on this post (up to $50) to the cause. $50 won’t change the world, but it is enough to pay for a set of medical instruments!
Please watch this moving short film about Monique, narrated by Kris Holloway.
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