The Mango Bride Is Both Sweet and Tart

Book Review

Marivi Soliven's "The Mango Bride"

Marivi Soliven's "The Mango Bride"

Marivi Soliven’s "The Mango Bride" tells the intertwined stories of “poor little rich girl” Amparo, exiled by her wealthy family to the United States, and Beverly, a former waitress turned mail-order bride. As interesting as these central characters are sisters Marcela and Clara, veterans like Manong Del, socialites Senyora Concha and Carina, and the Filipinas that Amparo encounters in her job as telephone interpreter.

The novel is an easy read, with Filipino phrases lending authenticity and “naturalness” to the flow of Soliven’s prose. There is mystery (why did Marcela stab the Señora?), suspense (what will happen to Beverly?), tragedy (the death of Clara), horror (as the fantasy Cinderella love story of Beverly turns out to be a tale of violence), and politics (veterans’ issues)–something for every reader’s taste.

‘The Mango Bride’ is less about the love stories of its characters, than it is about the complex relationships among women.

Then there are bit and pieces here and there that remind one of familiar stories: death by the railroad tracks; illicit lovers in a car crash; a maid impregnated by the senyora’s son (a familiar trope reflective of the feudal system in the Philippines); and even barbecue at the Beachhouse restaurant (miles and miles away from a beach) at the University of the Philippines campus.

Above all, the novel follows the conventions of romance–forbidden love, reversal of fortune, separation of lovers and a secret revealed at the end. Yet, reminiscent of 1920s fictionist Magdalena Jalandoni’s works that go beyond the limitations of romance, "The Mango Bride" is less about the love stories of its characters, than it is about the complex relationships among women–mistress and servant; migrant women helping migrant women; mothers and daughters; competitive best friends; and estranged cousins bound by the challenges of survival in the site of migration.  

"The Mango Bride" author Marivi Soliven

"The Mango Bride" author Marivi Soliven

t is also in the interruptions in the text, made through phone calls answered by Amparo, and where we hear calls of distress, and the comforting, reassuring voice in the native Filipino/Tagalog that the novel comes most alive. Like the telephone ring that disturbs silence, or calls us away from work or sleep, the telephone conversations between Amparo and other Filipinos/Filipinas remind us of everyday struggles of migrant workers and immigrants.

Bravo, Marivi Soliven, for using a well-loved metaphor, the mango, and employing popular storytelling strategies in articulating women’s issues–the mail-order bride phenomenon, violence against women and divisions in class and race that contribute further to women’s oppression.

Like the mango that is sweetest in May, "The Mango Bride" is a summer must-read for everyone.   


Joi Barrios-Leblanc teaches Filipino and Philippine literature at UC Berkeley. She is the author of seven books, including the poetry collection, "To Be a Woman is to Live at a Time of War" and holds a Ph.D. in Filipino (Literature). 

Marivi Soliven will be launching "The Mango Bride" at the following venues:

Saturday, May 4, 2013 5:00 p.m. Skylight Bookstore
1818 N Vermont Avenue, CA 90027

Thursday, May 9, 2013 6:00 p.m.  I-Hotel
868 Kearny Street @ Jackson Street
San Francisco CA 94108 | 415-399-9580

Wednesday, May 22, 2013  7-8p.m. Leftbank Building
240 N Broadway Ave., 2nd floor lobby
Portland, OR 97227

Thursday, May 23, 5 p.m.
Ethnic Cultural Center
University of Washington
3931 Brooklyn Ave.  NE
Seattle WA 98115

Friday, May 24, 7:00 p.m.
Elliott Bay Book Company
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle WA 98122

Thursday, June 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Romulo Hall
Embassy of the Philippines
Romulo Hall
1600 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036

October 19-21
Fil Am Book Festival 

For more information: