What is it like to live and work in a remote corner of the world and befriend a courageous midwife who breaks traditional roles? Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Mali Midwife is the inspiring story of Monique Dembele, an accidental midwife who became a legend, and Kris Holloway, the young Peace Corps volunteer who became her closest confidante.
Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway Review
A Compelling Account of Life, Death and the Extraordinary Power of Women.
I felt drawn to this book in a way words cannot convey. I yearned to peel back the cover, dive in and learn of the great friendship between Malian midwife, Monique and author, Kris Holloway. I longed to sense I was in a village deep in Sub-Saharan Africa, immersed in ritual and daily life as babies came into the world, rain was prayed for, crops were gratefully harvested and Kola nuts were ground. Even though I knew it would leave me heart-broken, uplifted and changed all in one fell swoop…
This is the book I wish I had read when I was pregnant.
In fact, I would go as far as saying this is perhaps the only bedside reading a woman in the Western world needs throughout gestation. One cannot help but compare the conditions in which we as Westerners have become accustomed to giving birth. At times Kris’s writing left me so immersed in a scene from Monique’s birthing hut that I felt apologetically embarrassed by some of our first world pomp and ceremony (the baby showers, the melee of gifts from our flurry of visitors, the 3D scans, the maternity clothes addressing every possible social encounter…). Mali is a country where women frankly have no choice but to get on with the job at hand. They give birth. Their pain relief is rudimentary – at best. And then they are expected to resume full run of the household; often a mere 24 hours after the event. With the rest of their children in tow. It’s simply impossible to read this book without feeling immense gratitude for being born into an entirely different culture at a time when women’s health and well-being positively thrives in comparison.
This is a book for every woman.
And man. But as a female, the pride I felt for my ‘sisters’ was something else. The solidarity and love for the characters Kris Holloway so intricately portrays is palpable. I was rooting for every lady in this book; for their survival – and that of their babies, for their livelihood, for their equality, for their opportunities, for their education. The author’s words touch your very soul. I suppose this is true of many a non-fiction narrative, but really, it’s not often you come across a writer so talented, so effortlessly skilled at linking the hearts and minds of readers wherever they are in the world. Kris accomplishes this beautifully. And truly her book is a gift. Not just to the legacy of Monique and all that she created for her village and its people. Not simply as the acknowledgement of a magical friendship. But for the wider world.
Attention to detail.
I fell in love with Kris’s spotlight on her surroundings. Her record of the nuances of conversation; the hues, the fragrances, the expressions, the sounds of the people and their actions, the weather, the sunlight and the contrasting darkness, was utterly captivating.
A cascade of emotions.
Monique’s story takes you through all of them. And then back again. In no particular order. We read in celebration. We read in grief. We read in despair. We read in joy. We read in love. We read in anger. We read in hope. It is astounding how one small village in Mali can produce so many sensations; how one midwife – one female – can be the light at the end of so many tunnels, leaving in the tracks of her footprints so much change.
This review may be short, but sometimes there is nothing more to say except you have to read this book. You just do. At times you will well up. At times you will rise up. At times you will feel helplessly and pathetically distant, over-privileged, culturally ignorant and at a loss. At times you will want to thwart the male race. But for all of that you will smile at the unstoppable undercurrent of the things which truly matter: love, life, hope, celebration and the enduring strength and power of the friendship of amazing women.
Monique and the Mango Rains is published by Oneworld Publications.