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Monique and the Mango Rains: An Extraordinary Story of Friendship in a Midwife's House in Mali [Kindle Edition]

Kris Holloway
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

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Paperback $14.94  
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Book Description

Monique Dembele saves lives and dispenses hope in a place where childbirth is a life-and-death matter. Her unquenchable passion to improve the lot of the women and children in her West African village is matched by her buoyant humour in the face of unhappy marriage and backbreaking work. This is the deeply compelling story of the rare friendship between a young development volunteer and this midwife who defies tradition and becomes - too early in her own life - a legend.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This tender, revelatory memoir recalls the two years Holloway spent as an impressionable Peace Corps volunteer in the remote village of Nampossela in Mali, West Africa. It centers on her close friendship with Monique, the village's overburdened midwife. When Holloway (now a nonprofit development specialist) arrived in Nampossela in 1989, she was 22; Monique was only two years her senior. Yet Monique, barely educated, working without electricity, running water, ambulances or emergency rooms, was solely responsible for all births in her village, tending malnourished and overworked pregnant women in her makeshift birthing clinic. With one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world, these Malian women sometimes had to work right up until and directly after giving birth and had no means of contraception. Holloway especially noted Monique's status as an underpaid female whose male family members routinely claimed much of her pay. Monique shared her emotional life with Holloway, who in turn campaigned for her rights at work and raised funds for her struggling clinic. Holloway's moving account vividly presents the tragic consequences of inadequate prenatal and infant health care in the developing world and will interest all those concerned about the realities of women's lives outside the industrialized world. B&w photos, map. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Poignant and powerful." Starred review Kirkus Reviews "Achingly real." Editorial board favourite Boston Globe "There are many beautiful books by Westerners about living in Africa... The best ones put the readers in the middle of unfamiliar terrain and make them smell it and hear it. This is one of those books." Minneapolis Star Tribune "I shed several tears while reading this book. Monique and the Mango Rains is a true story that rides the ebb and flow of womanhood in Mali. It also sparks inspiration that differences can be made, and are made, when the right ingredients are combined." Midwives Magazine "Holloway has a fresh and sensitive way of relating events... what she sees, hears, what people say, what she learns and the impact of the different seasons... The postscript describes [her and her husband's] return to Mali in 1999 and again in 2007. They continue to support Clinique Monique in the nearby village of Kouri. You could, too." Mmegi (Botswana) Mmegionline

Product Details

  • File Size: 883 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (May 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052TNZEM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #841,127 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unlikely friends on a powerful mission October 3, 2006
I love the music of Mali. Love how the songs of Ali Farka Toure and Boubacar Traore are about community --- farming and water and schools. And a passionate, exciting CD called Divas of Mali taught me that however poor Mali is --- and it's the fifth poorest nation on the planet --- women in Mali are encouraged to sing. And is that not positive as well?

When she got her letter from the Peace Corps in 1989, a college senior named Kris Holloway knew a few things about Mali I seem to have overlooked. Like: Forget singing --- it's a particularly hard place for women. Most marry by 18 and have 7 children. Mortality rate for pregnant women: about 1 in 12, among the 10 highest. Genital cutting? In Mali, it's almost universal.

And yet here is Monique Dembele, the young midwife in Nampossela, doing amazing work against ridiculous odds. The town's birthing house stinks. A storm has ripped off a corner of the roof. The heat is oppressive. But it is one place where men may not go --- though she has little medicine and modest training, Monique rules here.

The Peace Corps has sent Kris --- the first white person ever to live in this village of 1,400 --- to be Monique's assistant. The friendship is instant. But who wouldn't be inspired by Monique? She has an unfaithful husband. Her father-in-law, a village elder, gets her pay and skims off so much for himself and his son that she can't take good care of the household. And yet Monique is one of life's ebullient spirits: ever-positive, warm-hearted, always looking to help others.

This book is many things --- a reminder of our good fortune in the West, a granular look at another culture, an appreciation of the rich variety of human experience --- but I like it best as an account of a friendship.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Birth, life, and death in a Third World Country January 19, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can add nothing to the praises that previous reviewers have given this book except to say that it is absolutely a must-read. At times funny, at times tragic, always fascinating, it gives great insight into village life and culture in a society very close to the edge of bare survival. An infant mortality rate of nearly 50% is a most sobering statistic. When the infants involved are the children of your friends and neighbors it becomes a heart-breaking one, as I well remember from my year in Nigeria. Certainly the harsh treatment (overworked, genitally mutilated, without any rights to speak of, worn out by constant child-bearing) of women in Mali must play a major role in holding the country back. Those women who, like Monique, labor to improve the situation of their sisters are their country's hope and its future.

Thanks so much, Kris Holloway, for reminding me of what West Africa is like, and for making me acquainted with two quite remarkable women--your friend Monique Dembele, and yourself.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Both educational and entertaining November 9, 2006
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I bought this book because it was required reading for a class in Medical Anthropology. Despite this inauspicious beginning, it is a fascinating, intimate and very readable account of women's lives in an African village only a few years ago. The author is a Peace Corp volunteer who explains her experiences in a clear and fascinating way. It is a book that you want to read and that you learn from at the same time.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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Before reading this book, my favorite midwifery book was Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent. Monique and the Mango Rains is every bit as good. I read it in just two sessions, sitting in my comfortable house surrounded by healthy children, too much food, and free-flowing clean water, uncomfortably aware of how much I take it all for granted. I won't easily forget Monique.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Peace Corps memoir I've read December 9, 2006
....and as a returned Peace Corps volunteer myself, I've read several. Most I've found to be cynical, patronizing, or superficial, or some combination of the above. Kris Holloway has written this memoir from the heart, and has thus given us a loving but true and unsentimental portrait of her life in Nampossela. She describes her experiences with real humanity and humility, and the Malians in the book are flesh-and-blood people, not caricatures or idealized visions of the noble poor. This is due not only to her skills as a writer but also to the heartfelt, human love she felt for the place and her family and friends there, and to a maturity and level of insight beyond her 22 years. Like many of the other reviewers, I cried and laughed often while reading this book.

Disclaimer: I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, the country right next door to Mali, during the same period of time that Kris was in Mali. I've also been a practicing midwife for 13 years. So obviously this book touched me personally on many levels, and it's hard for me to be objective. Still, given the other positive reviews, I don't think I'm alone in my love of this book. Buy it and buy many copies, because part of the proceeds go to help educate Monique's children!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, unforgettable, leaves you wanting more April 5, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Heartfelt memoir of a 22 year old Peace Corps volunteer during her 2 years with a midwife in Mali. Though the book centers around the budding friendship between Kris and Monique, wonderful tidbits provide insight around what the day-to-day is like for the people in that small village, and how it's changed over the years. I wish there had been more: more anecdotes about the villagers, more stories about the births, the pregnancies, the babies and how they got along without diapers, the food, the water, the harvest, the different kinds of patients Monique attended to at her clinic, etc. I was not ready for the book to end.

This book will also unwittingly serve as the best advertisement ever for the Peace Corps, although I suspect Ms. Holloway's relentless enthusiasm, overwhelmingly positive experience and deep connection with that village is not necessarily the norm. And yes, I will recommend the book to all of my friends and family, and I am touched to learn that proceeds are helping Monique's family.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book- very engaging
I had to read the book for a medical anthropology class. it was an easy read and it kept me engaged through the different characters, their views and thinking of a world we may... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Luis Gonzalez
4.0 out of 5 stars great read
Great read, any course with medicine or anthropology will love this book. It's easy to read and I formative in a women's Heath studies viewpoint.
Published 1 month ago by Tmills
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Badly written and boring
Published 1 month ago by Liz Siber
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Such an amazing story and look into Mali!
Published 2 months ago by kalima
5.0 out of 5 stars great book!
I loved this book. It was so good and inspirational. It gave a glimpse into midwifery in Africa. The story had my attention the entire time and even at times had me feeling... Read more
Published 2 months ago by C. Lynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A wonderful glimpse into a slice of life as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali. Beautifully written.
Published 3 months ago by Dorothy M. Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This book was exactly what I was hoping for. I loved hearing all about the trials that one faced as a midwife in Mali, and it was amazing to hear all that was accomplished. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kayla
4.0 out of 5 stars Monique and the Mango Rains
I enjoyed the story and recommend it to other book clubs. Leads to interesting conversations and discussions with your group.
Published 4 months ago by P. Paynter
5.0 out of 5 stars Cultural eye opener
Amazing book that involves many different aspects of life. It makes you want to join the peace core and find a place to belong!
Published 6 months ago by Meera Patel
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful story.
This is the true story regarding what women in rural Africa must endure with regard to childbirth. It is also about what one woman worked so hard to achieve to make that experience... Read more
Published 6 months ago by regina gramm
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