The Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven
Senora Concha sends her daughter Amparo into exile to San Francisco for disgracing the Manila society family. Amparo is close to finishing her college degree there. Now she’ll have to find an American community college if she wants to finish it. Her father has died and her distant mother won’t let her stay home.
Beverly’s mother died when she was 15. Ten years later she is still alone with only her aunt, a cook in a wealthy home in Manila. She is a server both for a restaurant and a catering company. She has to take a temporary leave from the catering company after accidentally spilling a drink on a guest. Her mother had promised her a better life. Perhaps there is a way for her through the Filipino Sweethearts dating company.
Amparo has settled into America and is now with a wonderful man, but thoughts of the Philippines stay with her. Her job is as a phone interpreter from Tagalog to English. She visits her uncle, Senora Concha’s brother, who was exiled to American around 30 years earlier. Although she keeps questioning him, he won’t tell her why he had to leave the Philippines.
Beverly has married and now lives in San Francisco in a small home. She and her pharmacist husband have a small daughter. Beverly dreams of herself visiting her aunt in Manila, wanting to show off her little girl.
Amparo and Beverly live within a few blocks of each other. They see each other at the park, then run into each other in the grocery store. When their worlds finally collide, old family secrets are finally learned.
In The Mango Bride, Marivi Soliven draws a lush picture of Manila in the late 1980’s, making it come to life in the high society homes and the crowded, much poorer neighborhoods.
Senora Concha and her contemporaries pity those Filipinos who move to America where no one has servants. The Senora has never cooked a meal or dusted a shelf in her life. Her three children were raised more by their cook then by herself. She tolerates her cheating husband because she doesn’t want to lose her place in society. She disdains those who are part of the working class in Manila and America.
When Ampora washes their dishes, cares for their home, or works as an interpreter, she dreams about the life she might have had. She still feels exiled and out of place even though she has now lived in America for seven years. At the same time, she is happy with Seamus wants a life with him. Beverly didn’t have a privileged life in Manila, so the American household doesn’t bother her. But the man she wrote love letters to and who came to the Philippines to marry her wasn’t the Prince Charming she imagined. While she doesn’t necessarily want to move back to Manila, she does long to visit with her daughter.
I liked most the descriptions of the Manila and Filipino culture. My biggest complaint about The Mango Bride is that Soliven doesn’t bring in Beverly’s character until about a third of the way into the novel. The book starts dramatically with an unexpected stabbing which leads into Amparo’s story. A major component of the book is the comparison and contrast of Amparo’s and Beverly’s lives in San Francisco.
Marivi Soliven combines numerous themes into The Mango Bride. Soliven winds together societal clashes, immigration, family disgrace, extra marital affairs, wife abuse, family ties, illicit love, and family secrets. She doesn’t dig deeply into any of her themes, yet they all impact the story and give texture to the novel. The characters aren’t real deep, but enough to keep the reader involved.
The Mango Bride illustrates the Filipino culture both in the Philippines and for the immigrants in America. It’s a revealing book.