THE MANGO BRIDE
Truth Well Told
People often ask if the events or characters in my novel are drawn from real life. The short answer is, yes. I’m constantly watching people, eavesdropping on conversations in cafés or on the street, listening to NPR for anything that might be useful one day in a story. You might say that writing has made me hyper-aware — why make things up, when you can borrow them from real life, from actual people?
That Dingdong Hello buzzer in the novel’s prologue? I discovered my mother using it in Manila several years ago, around the time I began working on The Mango Bride. Before that, she used a buzzer embedded in the floor underneath the head of the table in the formal dining room. At dinner parties, my mother would tap on the floor button to ring a bell in the kitchen. The kitchen’s door was closed, so none of the guests heard the chimes, but like magic, a maid would emerge from the kitchen to see what needed to be served or cleared away. When we were kids, we played with that buzzer till it finally broke down.
Yaya Esther, who appears in the prologue as nanny to Señora Concha’s grandchildren is also based on a real person. Esther cared for me and my three siblings, enforcing afternoon siesta and keeping order in the house until my mother’s diplomat sister lured her away to care for my young cousins in Switzerland. It’s been decades since she last worked for my family, but Esther still remembers all our birthdays and flew home to attend every one of our weddings.
Naming characters after my friends is a practice I began long before my first book was published: While working as a copywriter in a large ad agency I sometimes composed little narrative poems and named the protagonists after my friends, giving them the stories as cheap and cheerful presents. In like manner,The Mango Bride is populated by friends and relatives who make cameo appearances as broadcast journalists, doctors, socialites, diplomats and World War II veterans.
On very rare occasions, I can insert real people acting as they do in real life. This happened with Thoth and Lila Angelique, the singing/violin-playing duo that comprise Tribal Baroque. I’d been wandering around Balboa Park, looking for a free bench on which to write when the most ethereally beautiful melodies drew me to a hallway at the Casa Del Prado. I ended up sitting on stone steps trying to capture Tribal Baroque’s amazing performance in words.
Years later, I bumped into them again and explained that I’d written them into a scene in my novel. I subsequently invited them the San Diego book launch party: they not only showed up in full costume, but actually performed a song!
The city of Manila plays a large part in The Mango Bride, for it encompasses what my immigrant characters think of as “home.” Because of this, I took extra pains to describe it as vividly as possible, to help non-Filipino readers understand what my characters were giving up when they moved to America.
I grew up in Manila, studied and taught at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, so creating the setting for the chapters that take place there entailed little more than pulling up memories of the classrooms, acacia trees and the Christmas Lantern Parade. The Hotel Intercontinental was less familiar, but friends in Manila helped by emailing photos and detailed descriptions of the hotel. Likewise, even though I’d lived eight years in Oakland, I still needed to refresh my memory by looking at certain locations in the Bay Area via Googlemaps.
Last of all, there is one anecdote that I hung on to for nearly a decade. It came in the form of an email forwarded to me by a friend in Manila and it was the hilarious account of a circus elephant’s escape from the Araneta Coliseum. The elephant somehow broke away from his trainer, stepped through the loading dock and wandered down a major city thoroughfare. I laughed so hard over that story that I saved the email message, knowing it would come in useful one day. It now forms a major part of the chapter 20, “Elephant in the Room.”
About the Author
Like her main character, Marivi Soliven moved from the Philippines to California, where she now lives and works as an interpreter. Several of her short stories and essays from her 16 books have appeared in anthologies and she taught creative writing at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, the Ayala Museum and the University of California at San Diego. This is her first novel.
The Mango Bride
As Amparo works to build the immigrant’s dream, she becomes entangled in the chaos of Beverly’s immigrant nightmare. Their unexpected collision forces them both to make terrible choices and confront a life-changing secret, but through it all they hold fast to family, in all its enduring and surprising transformations.
BARNES AND NOBLES:
AND OTHER FINE RETAILERS
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Received for an honest review from the publisher.
THE MANGO BRIDE by Marivi Soliven is an interesting debut novel in Women’s Fiction. Two women two cultures and their struggles to fit into American life. Told between the two main characters,Amparo Guerrero,a banished Filipino and Beverly Obejas,a mail-order bride. With a murdered child,secrets,culture difference,betrayal,an unwanted pregnancy,a mail order bride,exile,immigration and a bit of romance, you can’t go wrong with “The Mango Bride”. A very complex story ranging from the Philippines to California, all is not what it seems in “The Mango Bride”. An enduring story,the storytelling was very in depth,the characters fascinating as well as engaging. Ms. Soliven is a great storyteller in the making. An author to watch for in the future. If you enjoy learning more on culture difference, immigration and all that entails you will enjoy “The Mango Bride”. Received for an honest review from the publisher.
HEAT RATING: MILD
REVIEWED BY: AprilR,Review courtesy of My Book Addiction and More