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The Moon in the Mango Tree
B & H Publishing Group / 2008 / Paperback
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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?
Set in Siam and Europe during the 1920s, a glittering decade of change, The Moon in the Mango Tree is based upon the true story of Barbara Bond, a beautiful young opera singer from Philadelphia who is forced to choose between her fierce desire for independencea desire to create something of her own to give purpose and meaning to her lifeand a deep abiding love for her faithful missionary husband whose work creates a gap between them.
But when you choose between two things you love, must one be lost forever?
Written in gorgeous prose, Pamela Binnings Ewen’s remarkable novel enthralled me like no other has for a very long time. Set in exotic Siam and pre-war Europe, this story of a young woman seeking the truth of herself captured my heart.”
Bev Marshall, author of Walking Through Shadows and Right as Rain
The Moon in the Mango Tree is an old-fashionedI mean that in the best sensetale of love, adventure, faith, and the clash of desire and duty. The writing is wonderful, the story compelling.”
Bret Lott, author of Jewel (an Oprah's Book Club pick), editor of The Southern Review
Lush with the detail of tropical jungles and the richness of the palaces of Siam, author Pamela Binnings Ewen takes us on a journey we hope will never end. Truly a beautifully crafted story told with music that sings still in my ears.”
Absolutely wonderful! I couldn't put it down. I picked up The Moon in the Mango Tree with some trepidation as it wasn't the type of book I usually read. But I was immediately drawn into the story and into the life of the novel's main character, Babs. Beautifully written, authentically told, Pamela Binnings Ewen has created a compelling story that hits all the right notes.”
"Ewen is a talented writer, and this is a strong addition to Christian fiction."
Pamela Binnings Ewen practiced law for twenty-five years before following in the authorial footsteps of relatives such as James Lee Burke (The Tin Roof Blowdown) and Andre Dubus III (The House of Sand and Fog). The Moon in the Mango Tree is her second novel.
Rich and glorious.
The Moon in the Mango Tree is based on a true story. Set in the early 1920s, it is a richly detailed chronicle of the life of a young woman torn between her desire to study to become an operatic performer and her love for a man. Set in exotic Siam and pre-war Europe, this young woman seeks her own sense of self and struggles for faith, meaning and purpose in her life.
Holding a four year contract in her hand to study in Chicago under a celebrity opera singer, 18-year-old Barbara is thrilled beyond all imagination. When Barbara chooses to marry Harvey, however, she travels to glamorous Siam where her new husband will serve as a missionary surgeon. She struggles with being a missionarys wife, facing the disappointment of not living in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, where all the sophisticated international people congregate. She sees her dreams of singing for this international set smashed, but attempts valiantly to adjust to the backwoods culture of her husbands assignment.
Resented immediately by the wives of the strict missionaries, most of Barbaras attempts to become part of them are rejected. She is not qualified to assist as a nurse or a teacher. Her stubbornness and persistence against most odds cause her to start a choir for the native children, which, unfortunately, the harsh pastor does not accept. She becomes enchanted with the local people and their culture, but her four years are difficult because of the poverty, disease, and lack of appropriate supplies for the small hospital. Her husband is called away to the inner jungle to combat fever, malaria and spirit witch doctors.
Giving birth only reinforces to how much she will never belong. After a trip to the big city for the birth of the first child, Barbara realizes how much she has given up for her husbands success at the cost of her dreams. When she gets a second opportunity to study under a brilliant teacher in Italy, she convinces her husband, who has now become physician to the King of Siam, to allow her and their two daughters to go while she studies in Rome. In effect, it is a separation. Her husband is devastated, but patient.
The international set Barbara meets and the temptations they offer constantly challenge her. Her maestro offers her the opportunity to sing key roles in operas. Again she has a difficult decision to make. Barbara finds herself growing as a person, but she is torn between desire and duty to her marriage. The decision she ultimately makes and her reasons for doing so are what makes the story so rich and glorious. Celebrity Café
Not long after WWI ended, Barbara is forced to forget her dreams of being an opera diva when she marries Dr. Harvey Perkins, who informs his new bride that he is giving up his practice to serve as a medical missionary in Siam. He offers her a platitude that she will be able to sing once they settle in Siam. Frightened as she is a comfortable Christian and not a missionary, Babs objects to their relocation as she prefers they move to Chicago where the local opera has offered her a performing role. However, he rules as the husband and they head to Siam.
However, not long after arrival in rural Nan, Babs is unable to adjust to the abject poverty she witnesses or the conditions of their lifestyle. Harvey is appalled with his spouses failure and irate with her weakness when she suffers a nervous breakdown. Still they return to the States for her to heal, but fanatical Harvey forces them to return to his Siam practice soonest.
THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE is a terrific historical tale that allows the audience too look deeply at the role of women in society. Fascinatingly Harvey cares and loves his spouse, but is disappointed in her failure to adjust; her ambition and goals are irrelevant. Babs wants to adapt as she accepts that is her position in life, but resents giving up her goals and cannot cope with what she has seen in Siam. Although the description of time and place is extremely vivid enabling the reader to feel they are in America and Siam circa 1920s; that also slows down the pace of an otherwise strong early twentieth century relationship drama. - Harriet Klausner
I know, I know...TWO historical novels in TWO days...that's totally amazing for me!! But what can I say? They called to me and I had to answer:-)"The Moon In The Mango Tree" is Pamela's third novel, and it is a huge, juicy reading experience. Set in the 1920's, Pamela's story takes us from the suffragette movement in the United States to the wilds of Siam. With gorgeous descriptive prose, she paints a vivid portrait of the country as well as the people and the times.
Barbara Bond is set to become a grand opera singer when she meets and falls in love with budding doctor Harvey Perkins. He admires her determination and free spirit, and she loves his generous nature and kind and gentle manner, and the two soon marry.
After Harvey returns from the war, he's a changed man. Now seeing the lack in other parts of the world, Harvey's dreams of mission work take precedence over Barbara's dreams of singing. But never in her wildest dreams would she ever imagine having to sacrifice as much as she does.
What follows is an amazing journey of expectations, finding yourself amidst the struggles of life, and learning to love people of other cultures. It's an illustration of the old saying, "Show God your plans, and then watch His plans unfold for you."
Pamela's story reads like a cross between "The King and I" and an old Judy Garland film. The dialogue is crisp and exact, with the description full and rich. You can't help but feel Barbara's growing frustration and resentment, and then change as she herself changes.What adds even more depth to this story is knowing it is based on a true account.
I have to confess, I'm only a little over a third of the way through this nearly 500 page novel...but I'm captivated, as I know you will be as well. I'm giving "The Moon in the Mango Tree" four out of five bookmarks, with apiece of sheet music as a charm. - Happy Reading! Deena, http://deenasbooks.blogspot.com
The Compulsive Reader
"This novel is filled with the mysterious beauty of Siam, the flamboyance of Paris, and the easy, rolling life of Rome before World War II. Its a love story filled with adventure and sacrifice. Ewen tells an interesting, well-written, and totally captivating story here. You cant help but enjoy it." - Reviewed by Rita Quinton
The Romance Reader's Connection
Living at the peak of the women's movement in the Roaring Twenties, Barbara is torn between following her dreams to study and perform opera and her love for a man. Choosing her love leads her to the other side of the world to the jungles of Siam where her husband serves as a missionary doctor for the local people. While she is there, Barbara learns what is expected of her as a missionary wife and falls in love with the people and their culture. She struggles to find purpose in her own life and to satisfy the sadness in letting go of her and falls in love with the people and their culture. She struggles to find purpose in her own life and to satisfy the sadness in letting go of her desire. THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE is based on a true story that chronicles a woman's journey through her life trying to make all of the pieces fit, and to satisfy everyone, including herself.
THE MOON IN THE MANGO TREE is a sweet love story that will stay with you long after you place the book down. Young Barbara struggles with her desire to pursue a career and the desires of the heart with her husband. When she chooses to follow love, and ends up in the wild jungles of Siam, the toll that daily life takes on her heart emulates through the pages. You feel the oppressive heat of the jungle, the furious love between a man and a woman, and the feelings of loneliness from living with a man who is bound by duty to give his all to his patients while having little left to give at home. Placed in a time of fun, loud parties, and impressive party guests, THE MOON IN THE MANGO tree makes you feel like you have stepped back in time, and right into the action. This book will leave an impression on your mind and an imprint in your heart. Pamela Binnings Ewen did an amazing job. Her Grandmother would be proud!
In her rich and heartfelt sophomore novel, Ewen (Walk Back the Cat) bases the story line on her grandmothers life as a missionarys wife in the 1920s in what is now Thailand. Barbara is a gifted opera protégée who gives up her dreams when she marries Harvey Perkins, a medical doctor bound for Siam. Feeling stifled and afraid, she loses her comfortable Christian faith amid the rigid fundamentalism of the poverty-stricken mission in rural Nan. The couple returns home after Barbara has a nervous breakdown, but Harveys zeal for his work soon lands them in Siam again. The love between the two is endearing, and Ewen skillfully portrays Harveys inability to understand his wifes deepest needs and her inability to understand what drives him. Ewens prose is laudably rich in specific and colorful detail, which becomes a problem when it slows down the pacing. Judicious cutting would have improved this overlong narrative. Barbaras questions of faith constitute the core of the book, as she struggles to define what makes up a meaningful life. Some readers will be disappointed by her final choice, while others will cheer at the ending. Ewen is a talented writer, and this is a strong addition to Christian fiction. (May) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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Author: Pamela Binnings Ewen
Located in: Mandeville, Louisiana
Submitted: April 26, 2008
Tell us a little about yourself. I was a lawyer for many years with a large international law firm and recently exchanged my partnership in the firm for a new career writing full time. "The Moon in the Mango Tree" is my third book, and very close to my heart because it's based on the true story of my Grandmother's life in the 1920's. My first book was a non-fiction book titled "Faith On Trial". I began Faith On Trial as an agnostic, and ended it as a committed Christian. "Walk Back The Cat" was my first novel. It's a story of power and revenge, and the Apostle Peter's warning against false teachers.
What was your motivation behind this project? As I mentioned above, I was very close to my Grandmother. She was a strong woman, a suffragette, beautiful, smart, irrepressible. She was trained to sing grand opera, but gave up her career in 1919 (temporarily, she thought) to follow my Grandfather to Siam where he was a medical missionary. Through that dazzeling decade, first in the jungles of Siam, then in Bangkok where he was a royal physician, and later in Paris, Lausanne, and Rome, she struggled with her search for faith, to understand her purpose in life, and struggled with her longing to sing, to find out what might have been. When she passed away and I found her letters and journals written from Siam and Europe, and I discovered a side of her that I'd never known--a woman torn between love and family, facing the sometimes excruciating choice that many women face still today. So I wrote the book for her, as a tribute, and for my Mother (who was born in the jungles of Siam in 1921) and for women today.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? I hope that they'll love the story and my Grandmother and won't be able to put down the book! Women today still deal with the issues she faced in the 1920's and I hope that as readers follow her journey, they'll realize that they are not alone in their hopes, and dreams, and fears. And finally, I hope they'll be surprised and delighted by the ending!
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? Writing this book was a very emotional experience for me, almost as though my Grandmother was with me while I wrote. In certain scenes I played music that I remembered her playing on the piano or singing, and I played it over and over. At those times, such a deep poignant feeling would come over me that sometimes I would find myself crying while I wrote. Her letters home were very detailed because in those days (and so far away from home) that was the only way to communicate with her family. And she was so young! I would find myself reading a page describing a whimsical adventure and suddenly in the middle of the whole thing, there would be one sentence that was different and surprising--something deeper and very meaningful. That is one reason I chose fiction rather than to write a biography--I wanted to get to truth, to show the woman under the dutiful, loving wife, the woman who questioned everything and longed for that lode star just out of reach. Also, my Grandmother's constant questioning of faith is something I undestand because I've been through that myself. But it was a great surprise to me to find in her letters that she'd initially had the same problem with faith.
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? My primary inspiration is Christ and the four Gospels are, for me, the greatest books ever written. Second, I love all the classical writers--particularly Tolstoy, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Virginia Wolff, F. Scott Fitzgerald. As to contemporary writers, there are so many good writers today that I can't begin to name them all. I love a good book with a Christian world-view. It seems to me that most really good books have well-developed, but subtle, points of view about good and evil, religion, morality, and philosopy. It's interesting that you've asked about favorite authors and artists together, because a really good book is much like a great painting, or music, or movie, or poem -- detailed, rich in color, and layered. All of these have influenced my writing--movies are especially good for learning to structure scenes and for pacing, I think. Walk Back The Cat has a complicated structure and movies were helpful with that. Poetry teaches how to expand your mind and to communicate with unspoken words (especially good for lawyers!)Music - well music feeds emotions. And painting - just think of the process: canvas, background, sketching the image, filling, shading, etc. Then think 'rewrite, rewrite, rewrite'!
Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know: Yes - Thank you for being there. You are the writer's "listener", the reason that we write. I hope you'll find time to visit my website and let me know what you think of Mango Tree. There's nothing I like more than talking to readers!
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