Monique And The Mango Rains by Kris Holloway

Monique and the Mango Rains is the compelling story of a rare friendship between a young Peace Corps volunteer and a midwife who became a legend . . .

Monique Dembele saved lives and dispensed hope in a place where childbirth is a life-and-death matter. This book tells of her unquenchable passion to better the lives of women and children in the face of poverty, unhappy marriages, and endless backbreaking work. Monique’s buoyant humor and willingness to defy tradition were uniquely hers. In the course of this deeply personal narrative, as readers immerse themselves in the rhythms of West African village life, they come to know Monique as friend, mother, and inspired woman.

From witnessing her first village birth to the night of Monique’s own tragic death, Kris Holloway draws on her first-person experiences in Mali, her graduate studies in maternal and child health, medical and clinic records, letters and journals, as well as conversations with Monique, her family, friends and colleagues, to give readers a unique view—and a friend in West Africa.


I really enjoy reading about other countries and other cultures.  Kris Holloway’s book was a book that fed this hunger for knowledge.  Following in Kris’ footsteps this book takes you through her two years she spent in the Peace Corps working with Monique, a midwife in Mali.

Monique's Home
The Birthing House in Mali

The friendship that you witness develop between Kris Halloway and Monique is worth reading the book alone.  Yet, there is so much more information to this book them the friendship.  This is an accurate account of what life in West Africa was like for this incredible woman.

Day to day Monique wakes early and works all day in the birthing house where she helps women with pregnancies, before the birth, during, and after.  Working for unheard of wages that are collected by her husband… this book is one that ripped at my heart.  Kris Holloway brings a voice to this remarkable women and brings her story that otherwise would be unknown… to us, the lucky readers.  What a privilege to share a part of Monique’s life.

From Kris’s words about Africa, to Monique’s time in America… you will want to experience this book.  And that is just what this book is… an experience not to be missed.

Kris Holloway served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa from 1989-1991, where she met her husband,

Kris and Monique

John Bidwell. She holds a MPH from the University of Michigan where she focused her research on maternal and child health. She has used her unique background in writing, public health, and development to further the mission of numerous non-profits and educational institutions including Planned Parenthood, the National Priorities Project, the University of Michigan, Springfield College, and the Greenbelt Movement International. She currently works as the Director of Institutional Relations at the Center for International Studies, a fabulous study/live/explore abroad organization. She is a confirmed Francophile, loves chocolate, and sits on a physio ball while at her computer. She lives in Northampton, MA with John and their two sons.

Mali Music Video

The incredible life of Monique

West African Peanut Stew — Tigadegena

(from Monique Dembele, Mali, West Africa, adapted for vegetarians)
Serves 6-8

  • 2c. chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 4 c. vegetable stock
  • 2 c. tomato juice
  • ½ tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 -1 ½ c. smooth peanut butter
  • 2 c. chopped cabbage
  • 2 c. chopped sweet potato
  • 1 c. chopped okra (if available)
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped scallions
  • Rice or cous-cous (this sauce can be served over either)

  • Heat oil in large pot/skillet and fry onions, garlic, and ginger until soft. Add veg. stock, tomato juice, and cayenne. When hot, add peanut butter and mix well. Allow to boil for 10-20 minutes to thicken, then add remaining vegetables. Cook 20 minutes or so until vegetables are soft. Add water if the sauce is too thick, peanut butter if too thin. Serve over rice or cous-cous. Top with scallions. Is even better the next day.
  • Traditionally this is served communal-style. A large bowl filled with rice and sauce is placed on the ground. People gather around it and, after washing their hands in a small bowl of water, dig in (each person being careful to only nosh on the rice and sauce directly in front of him/her so as not to mix spit with the folks on either side). Another bowl of water is passed to rinse hands after eating.
  • Blessing for after the meal:
    Allah ka suma I kono. (May God cool the food in your belly.)
    Amina (Amen)

My Amazon Review

This books fits in the following challenges:

2010 100+ Reading Challenge

This book was given to me by Julie from My Own Little Corner Of The World

Thanks Julie – it was wonderful!

43 thoughts on “Monique And The Mango Rains by Kris Holloway

    1. I did Julie – thank you. 🙂 I was reading it in Honduras but at the time I was reading so many books around this theme that I became a bit burnt out on them.. I sat it aside and started it again recently and really enjoyed it!

  1. thanks for highlighting this book – my college roommate worked in the peace corps and I always respected the work she did. I will check this out!

    1. That is so awesome Colleen. It is people like this author who get out there and do stuff at a young age that amazes me. I wish I would have been more motivated right out of High School to connect with something like this.

  2. As I find reviews that I want to go back to in my internet wanderings, I’m adding them to my list at Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out—especially if you need titles to add to your reading list. And feel free to add links each Saturday to your book reviews for the week.

  3. A good review and a recipe to boot! Now that’s a good post. I won this book but haven’t got to it yet. It’s on my list for this year’s Books You’ve Won reading challenge. As someone who’s gone to a foreign country as a volunteer you would appreciate this story more than most I should think. Thanks for reviewing it. I’m moving it to the top of that list.

    1. Sandra, thanks for the comments. 🙂 You are right, because of my travels these stories really hit home for me. I hope that they speak as loudly to everyone who reads it.

  4. librarypat

    I will have to get this book. The Peace Corps is a unique experience. The individuals we meet and work with are special. We are the lucky ones to have the privilage to work in these countries in these programs. I know I gained more in my 3 years overseas than I could ever give. I went over 1968-71 and still think of the experience and what I learned constantly.
    Thank you for bringing this book to my attention.

  5. Pingback: Its Monday, What Are You Reading? « One Persons Journey through a world of Books

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  7. sounds like a wonderful book.

    Earlier this week I was at a cafe and ordered the ‘West African Sweet Potato Peanut stew’. it was amazing. I will definitely be trying this recipe.

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