By: Marivi Soliven
Publisher: NAL Accent
Publication Date: May 2013
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: May 2013
Marivi Soliven has delivered an intriguing and captivating story in her debut novel, The Mango Bride.
Amparo Guerrero and Beverly Obejas grew up together in Manila, yet their destiny of a meeting would not happen until years later and continents away from their Manila homeland. As young adults, both women move to California. Amparo, after falling from grace, is exiled to California at the behest of Senora Concha, her high society mother. Senora Concha’s current focus was rigid damage control toward protecting the prestigious Guerrero family name thanks to the antics of her only daughter. As far as she was concerned, this mission was far more important than repairing their broken relationship. Beverly, on the other hand, was on a quest to live the life and dreams her deceased mother had for her. Nanay Marcella is a vital link between the two women. To understand the connection, the reader must journey back to the beginning when Amparo was young, beautiful and doing what most young and privileged Filipino ladies did—languish in a life of pampering while adhering to strict guidelines of societal image and perception. Sadly, the only privilege Beverly had was to hold onto and embrace the dream her deceased mother had for her only child: a happy ending some day.
Feigning the warnings of her mother and diving head-first into her first true love, Amparo meets handsome and mysterious Mateo Madrigal. By no means was their meeting formidable as Mateo had the proper pedigree. He too was born into a family of privileged stock and community stature. This romance, however, comes to a screeching halt when poor choices made are not easily undone. Senora Concha has no other choice than to banish her only daughter Amparo to Oakland, California where she will stay with her Uncle Aldo, Concha’s estranged brother. In no uncertain terms, she would stay there for as long as it took for the scandal to die down.
Paralleling Amparo’s drastic changes, unbeknownst to Beverly, her mother’s dream for her was about to become a reality the day she ran into her childhood friend Lisa Patane. Unlike previous reunions, Lisa looked different this time—impeccably manicured and put together and currently arm in arm with a noticeably older, gray-haired man. It is when Lisa introduces American, Lydell Kinkade the “Third” of Naples, Florida and announces their engagement that Beverly listens a little more intently for details as to how this union happened. Lisa explains how she met Lydell through Filipina Sweetheart and began a pen pal relationship with him. In time, the once pen pals found true love in each other. She assured Beverly she could experience her own good fortune of the happily ever after she was promised if she took the same measures. All she had to do was sign with Filipina Sweetheart and in no time at all, she could be the next Mango Bride out of Manila and on her way to America. What Lisa failed to mention to Beverly was all of Filipina Sweetheart’s pen pals weren’t necessarily Lydell Kinkade clones.
Marivi Soliven’s first novel is the essence of a natural tone and flow that makes me think if her novel were a song, it would be pitch perfect. This author portrays great devotion toward developing and delivering vibrant, credible characters. They are further enhanced and complemented with Ms. Soliven’s wonderfully descriptive quality and obvious knowledge of Manila’s culture and ambiance. She entices the reader throughout The Mango Bride with local information as she treats the reader to native language and deliciously descriptive cuisine in many scenes. Nowhere does this story drag. There is an element of inevitability with the ending, but it is delivered in a tender and bittersweet manner. Congratulations on your body of work Ms. Soliven—a most enjoyable read.
Quill says: Marivi Soliven deserves positive accolades and recognition for this captivating and engaging first novel.