Monique and the Mango Rains Summary and Study Guide

Kris Holloway

Monique and the Mango Rains

  • 35-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 11 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis.
  • Written by a literary scholar with an MFA from The New School
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Monique and the Mango Rains Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 35-page guide for “Monique and the Mango Rains” by Kris Holloway includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 11 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Family and traditional patriarchal relationships and Cultural relativism.

Plot Summary

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali is the powerfully influential story of a Malian young woman turned dynamic midwife in a country where newborns need as many chances as possible to survive. This autobiographical account tells the story of Monique from the eyes of a white Peace Corps volunteer. Set in the village of Minianka in Southeast Mali, the author Kris Holloway tells the story of how she joined the Peace Corps at twenty-one, and became a helper to Monique Dembele, as well as a friend, and witnessed and assisted numerous births throughout the village.

The story begins with Holloway describing the first birth she had seen. She comments on the mud-house, specifically the poor living conditions of the woman giving birth, which is a reflection on the poor living conditions of the entire nation of Mali, and she mutters to herself how this experience has deterred her to ever have her own child.

The country of Mali has one of the highest pregnancy related mortality rates in the world, for mother and child, and when the numbers are compared to a first world country like the United States, it is quite a tragedy. America’s mortality rate is approximately one out of every three thousand births, which is still pretty tragic, but even more so when you know that one out of twelve women die during childbirth in Mali – the narrator accentuates how important it is that there is someone like Monique to help quell those numbers, even if it’s just a little bit.

Most of the book is treated like a diary for Kris Holloway, where it is not really a story, but instead many of the conflicts that arise within these villages, and with Monique herself are communicated as they happen, and as they are told to her. Holloway describes this heroic woman: Monique is twenty-four years old, has a sixth grade education, two children, and less than a year of actual medical training. Monique Dembele watches over fourteen hundred villagers all on her own, from her dingy little clinic, which she is often unable to bring patients to when she is tending to them in their homes because of on-the-spot complications. Monique also must take care of the patients without electricity or running water.

Holloway is thoroughly blown away by Monique’s life, and her devotion to her patients and her family. She describes her daily routine in detail – how Monique opens the clinic early each day, and takes care of her pregnant patients late into the night, and still has the time to tend to her family.

Monique’s family is a subject of discontent for Holloway, as well as for Monique herself. Monique’s in-laws are quite unappreciative of her, despite the fact that she is able to take care of an entire village as well as her husband and her two children. However, that might be part of the issue, since being a woman with such significance in the village, puts the issue of status and station on the table for their family, and her husband is not very happy about that. Monique’s husband was a man that she was arranged to marry, a man who is quite uneducated, unfaithful and only cares about himself. This conversation prompts Monique to take Kris into town to meet her family, and they meet her childhood friend, and Monique tells the tale of how despite the fact that they had fallen in love, they are unable to marry because of tradition and culture, and she has to stay married to her horrible husband.

Kris stays in Mali for a very long time, learning their culture, and their mannerisms, and as they work together more and more they grow to be very close friends. Holloway talks about how much she admires Monique because of her beliefs and how strong she fights for them, despite the culture she lives in, which causes people to resent her for it. Things like female circumcision and other forms of genital mutilation, birth control, and her desire to teach her daughters to be just like her by educating them from a very young age.

Kris Holloway describes her own life in comparison to this courageous woman, and although they are both the same in some ways, their differences run to the core, like Kris’s graduate education and internships versus Monique’s very basic training, but that doesn’t stand in the way of them being friends. Being immersed in the village life, Holloway traveled alongside Monique throughout her entire journey, starting from the first birth she assisted with, until she sat beside her friend as she died. Monique’s struggle was real, and despite it all, she was able to aid in the birthing of several babies, many of which would have had to be buried without her help. Her strength and determination in the face of oppression opens the door to a variety of different themes for this biographical piece. In fact, the themes act more like lessons to learn from, like breaking from the traditional role, and the type of satisfaction one can attain when you are helping people.

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