Category: Adult Fiction 18+, 396 pages
Genre: Contemporary Multicultural Fiction
Publisher: Sojounrer Books
Release date: November 2, 2020
Content Rating: PG13 & M:There’s a suicide, reference to a past genocide, and reference to sex about to happen but no description of the sexual act.
Gold Medal, Contemporary Fiction, 2021 Global Book Awards (formerly New York City Book Awards)
Finalist, Multicultural Fiction, 2021 International Book AwardsAfter two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home in California and Hawaii where she grew up. An adventure in which she can also make some difference.Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s journal at a café. Though he has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it, they don’t stop him. His decision changes his life forever.Months later, they meet at a bookstore. Fascinated by his stories and adventurous spirit, Luna goes on a Peace Corps stint to a rural rice-growing village in Cambodia. There, she finds a world steeped in ancient culture and the lasting ravages of a deadly history. Will she leave this world unscathed?An epistolary tale of courage, resilience, and the bonds that bring diverse people together.
Tell us about your book. What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
The Shade Under the Mango Tree is an epistolary novel about a sheltered young woman hungry for adventure. Inspired by a young man who’s travelled the world, she goes to a rural village in Asia and steps into world steeped in an ancient culture and a deadly history. What she finds there defies anything she could have imagined. Will she leave this world unscathed?
As an epistolary novel, a good part of the story is told through a journal. I got inspired to write it when, one day, as I was rummaging through old pieces of paper in the garage. I came across a little notebook, about 2.5×4 inches. It’s filled with my thoughts, and lyrics, or poetry I collected when I was a teenager. So I thought, why not an epistolary novel?
Your book is set in (the San Francisco Bay Area and a rural village in Cambodia). Can you tell us why you chose these locations in particular?
Why the San Francisco Bay Area? Simple. I live here. I know it very well—both its geographic and demographic characteristics. Better yet, I have a good feel for the people who live here, and the main protagonists represent some of those people. The setting moves to Cambodia more than halfway into the story. Luna wanted to go to a place very different from where she grew up. And this country qualifies. A lot of Peace Corps volunteers are sent there. Maybe I also wanted readers to be aware of it. The Khmer Rouge genocide is mostly unknown—more so than the Holocaust.
In looking back over the books you have written, what elements of you can be found scattered throughout the characters of the heroines you create?
The female protagonist’s interiority. All my heroines have rich inner lives. They reflect on what happens to them and it helps them grow.
The overt passivity of thinking doesn’t appeal to many modern readers, however. We prefer action and excitement. But interiority is important to me, partly because of my training and the subsequent work I did.
I also live in a multicultural world, like the heroines in four of my books, including Luna in The Shade Under The Mango Tree.
Is there anything you would like people to take away from your book?
First, I hope readers get the message that to open up to cultures very different from their own expands and enriches their humanity. You also realize you’re not as different from each other as you might think. Two others are contained in the epigraphs I placed in the beginning of the book: Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other (Rainer Maria Rilke) and Talent develops in quiet places, character in the full current of human life (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).
Lastly, I hope it comes across that writing can help heal you from painful experiences. That idea is what started this book, in the first place.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Travel, do art, ogle art in museums.
issues of contemporary life. She believes in love and its many faces. Though she has traveled to many places, she has one ungranted wish: To live in Paris where art is everywhere and people have honed aimless roaming to an art form. She visits and stays a few months.
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