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Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali - Kris Holloway; Consulting Editor John Bidwell

Of the Peace Corps memoirs I’ve read, this is by far the most positive; I get the sense that Kris Holloway enjoyed her time in Mali, in addition to being enriched by it. She seems to be an active rather than introspective person, which surely helped. And most importantly, she sees the people she meets as individuals, rather than as manifestations of a foreign culture; she treats people as people, like equals, rather than viewing them through the prism of their disadvantages.

The primary focus of this book is the author’s relationship with Monique, the young health worker/midwife with whom she works. These two soon become close, building a beautiful friendship that lasts long after the author finishes her service. I enjoyed reading about Monique and the author, and it seems like they were able to make some difference in the villagers’ health. The book focuses on telling stories about people and events, rather than on lengthy reflections, critique of government policy, etc. In that sense it is not as insightful as, for instance, The Ponds of Kalambayi, but I suspect that's because the author was busy being a part of her new community rather than sitting alone and thinking about it, and I'm glad she kept the focus on what interested her rather than conjuring banal Deep Thoughts for the book.

That said, I doubt Kris Holloway has a literary career before her; a couple of word choices in the introduction are cringeworthy, and though I didn’t see this as a problem throughout the book (perhaps only when she was trying to write in a “literary” way), the prose could have been a little smoother. It isn’t bad, though, and overall I liked this book. Also, it has pictures, which is such an obviously good choice that I don’t know why they are missing from other Peace Corps memoirs. This isn't a perfect book, but I would recommend it, especially to those looking to be inspired by stories of service abroad.