The Moon in the Mango Tree

Written by Pamela Binnings Ewen
Review by Nan Curnutt

Barbara Perkins adores opera. She is a talented singer. When her chance finally comes to work with the Chicago Opera, she finds her husband Harvey, a doctor, has an equal desire to be a missionary to Siam. Barbara must choose between the husband she loves and the musical career she always wanted. It’s 1919, and although Barbara considers herself a modern woman, she is still encouraged by all to accompany her husband and find her fulfillment with him. She chooses to follow her husband despite her budding musical career.

Barbara finds life in a remote northern village of Siam, far from civilization, to be both enchanting and horrific in turns. She makes herself unpopular with some of the missionaries when she enjoys learning about the traditions and religion of the people around her. The primitive living conditions and the deep-seated prejudice of her fellow missionaries make life in Siam very difficult for her, and she begins to wonder if she made the right choice.

Pamela Binnings Ewen wrote this richly detailed novel based on the experiences of her grandmother, who lived in Siam and Europe during the Roaring Twenties. The story thoughtfully and realistically describes the inner turmoil of this young woman as well as the beauty and dangers of Siam. Descriptions of the landscape and the people are so vivid that the reader becomes as enchanted with Siam as Barbara. The subtle inspirational elements enhance the plot without overpowering it. This is a thought- provoking and enjoyable story, difficult to put down. Highly recommended.