Monique and the Mango Rains is the compelling story of a rare friendship between a young Peace Corps volunteer and a midwife who became a legend. Monique Dembele saved lives and dispensed hope in a place where childbirth is a life-and-death matter. This book tells of her unquenchable passion to better the lives of women and children in the face of poverty, unhappy marriages, and endless backbreaking work. Monique’s buoyant humor and willingness to defy tradition were uniquely hers. In the course of this deeply personal narrative, as readers immerse themselves in the rhythms of West African village life, they come to know Monique as friend, mother, and inspired woman.
Over the last few months, I have discovered that various peace corps memoirs are a trove of information for various countries in my around the world challenge, because they are often set in countries that don’t have all that many book set in them, or written about them. Monique and the Mango Rains was no exception – through it we are told of the friendship that developed over the course of the 2 years that Kris Holloway was assigned to Mali for her Peace Corps job, working with Monique, who was one of the few midwives in the area, and the one who had the highest success rate in working with the women and children.
For me, it was a look at two lives that were so vastly different growing up, that merged for that two year period, and then remained merged over the next several years. They never truly diverged from each other. I felt myself want to cheer with Monique and Kris when they helped save a baby from dying of malnutrition, or when they were able to replace the birthing house with funds provided by the Peace Corps. There was just so much to be learned through-out the course of the book. Ultimately through, there was a sad ending which is disclosed in the opening to the book and I felt myself tearing up as I read that.
This book is a quick read, but I highly recommend it if people would like an incite into life in Western Africa in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Monique and Kris’s story can be purchased from Amazon here: Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali (paperback). And personally, I’ll be donating the copy that I bought to the library because who knows, maybe a teenager reading this book will be inspired to join the Peace Corps just like Kris and maybe they’ll meet their own Monique.