There is a quite slim selection of books that can truly pull a reader in and take them to far away places. The Moon in the Mango Tree was definitely one of those rare finds.
Although labeled Christian fiction, God is not mentioned as in typical Christian fiction. Instead, the book is Christian in the sense of the ideas it presents.
Before I jump ahead of myself let me explain. The Moon in the Mango Tree‘s main setting is Siam (present day Thailand), where the main character’s husband is stationed as a medical missionary. For Barbara, or Babs as she is known by Harvey (her husband), moving to the remote jungles of Nan, Siam, was a sacrifice of considerable price. In Philadelphia, where the couple once lived, Babs was on the brink of a singing career.
Singing was her passion, her life, but she laid her dreams down to follow her husband. Which is something we can all applaud her for. That choice took courage. However, Babs never completely lets go of this dream.
The others working at the mission with Harvey and Babs scorn Babs for her supposedly sinful desire for music and adventure. From listening to their lies, Babs is presented with a warped view of Christianity. One that, combined with her intense hunger for freedom, leads her to make a choice that could cost her everything dear to her.
Ultimately, what I learned from this book is a message that is not often told in Christian fiction in a truly engaging, deep, and insightful way. The Moon and the Mango Tree reminds us that nothing in this world can satisfy. Absolutely nothing. So before you drop this book and judge the characters’ decisions, keep this moral in mind.
As Ecclesiastes 1:2-5 reminds us, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.”
Instead of becoming down hearted with this conclusion of the world, we should look to Jesus as our ultimate satisfaction, our living water and bread of life.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
I do wish the author emphasized this point more, but the way she presents the idea encourages one to ask, “So where do I find true meaning if not in this world?”
Something that I genuinely appreciated about The Moon in the Mango Tree was the fact that the author did not condemn singing and pleasure as evil. When taken to certain extremes or when placed before God, they do become evil. But, there is no harm in enjoying the things God gave us to enjoy. Creation is, in fact, a gift to enjoy, to not enjoy it would be offensive to the giver.
One beautiful part of this book was the imagery. Ewen writes with a voice that whispers in your ear and tells you of far away places, of Bangkok, Paris, Rome, and the Far East. The images I received from her descriptions created an uncommon realness and closeness of the places described.
Before I leave, I wanted to wrap this post up with some verses that I think sum up the message of The Moon in the Mango Tree very well.
“Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” (Luke 17:28-33, emphasis added)
Although these verses may sound a little harsh, the direct tone of them speaks right to the heart. When Jesus comes again, nothing in this life will matter anymore. As the poem by C.T Studd says “Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Just like Lot’s wife, if we look back to this world, holding onto everything that’s passing away (Ecclesiastes 1:4), we will lose everything.
So as you go about your day, I encourage you to find your satisfaction not in this world, but in Christ.
All images in collage are courtesy of Pinterest.