“…Moving from decade to decade and back and forth across the ocean from
Manila to Berkeley, Calif., this is a compelling tale of tragic family secrets. “
-Kirkus Reviews –
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“In the Service of Secrets is the Filipino anglophone novel that we’ve all eagerly anticipated, because in its unapologetic adherence to the conventions of a soap opera, it approaches, quite uncannily, both the actual and the imagined in Filipinos’s unwittingly melodramatic lives. After all, while we can argue endlessly about the validity of this or that representation of Filipino culture, what’s inarguable is that, nowadays, in most Filipino homes, the soap opera (more accurately, the telenovela) has come to occupy such a centrally crucial space that domestic arrangements are practically organized around the schedules of these favorite and all-important mass media texts, which may be said to possess a symbolic presence—and efficaciousness—that renders them, ironically, real…”
– Jose Neil Garcia – Judge, Palanca Awards– in his decision to award the award the 2011 Palanca Awards Grand Prize for the Novel to In The Service of Secrets, later re-titled The Mango Bride. The Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature is oldest literary competition in the Philippines, and is that country’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.
“Where contemporary tales of immigration might look south to the Mexico-US border, The Mango Bride, by San Diego author Marivi Soliven, pulls characters across an ocean …The search for kababayan (literally, “countrymen,” a term that comes up frequently in the novel) and family isn’t unique to Filipino people living in the US. It’s something that everyone experiences sooner or later, in some form or another. Even Americans, living in a city like San Diego where it sometimes seems like everyone comes from somewhere else, can identify with that.”
“The Mango Bride (Penguin NAL, May 2013) is a brilliant depiction of gender and immigration issues, bound in the restrictions of family and class…Soliven has written something more than a multigenerational family drama. She has incorporated compelling issues that humanize current news headlines as they help create vital characters. Immigration, gender and prejudice, class conflict, domestic violence—particularly its devastating effects on immigrants without U.S. citizenship—and the definition of family all drive the novel’s plot and the characters’ resolutions, both sorrowful and hopeful.”
– Kit Bacon-Gressitt
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“Why do people immigrate, leave their homeland and loved ones, to be a stranger in another land? The Mango Bride tells part of the story, through the lives of two Filipino women forced into exile by circumstances of their birth and dictates of Philippine culture. The novel is an engrossing telenovela which captures the melodrama and emotionalism of Filipino life, while putting the spotlight on the country’s harsh socio-economic realities and debilitating cultural traits.”
-Erwin de Leon
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“…Soliven’s masterful prose lends the novel a fineness of detail that extends the pleasure of reading beyond mere plot and character into language.”
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“This novel won the Palanca Award for the novel in 2011. It is one more addition to the birthing peak of our literature in English.”
-F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature, Philippines
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“There’s an abundance of misfortune surrounding the characters in Marivi Soliven’s debut novel, The Mango Bride, which comes out April 30 from New American Library, an imprint of Penguin.
The book’s already received attention in the author’s native Philippines, where, in 2011, it received the top honors for a novel written in English at the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, the Philippine equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize.
The Mango Bride reads like a fairy tale gone wrong. The fortunes of a wealthy Filipino family are reversed and its members disgraced. Soliven’s examination of the role that class plays exposes how dysfunctional a society can be when the gap between the haves and the have-nots cannot be overcome, even when the passion burns up the page.
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The Mango Bride makes the cut in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Top 10 Books of 2013! Read the full story here:
The novel is an easy read, with Filipino phrases lending authenticity and “naturalness” to the flow of Soliven’s prose. There is mystery (why did Marcela stab the Señora?), suspense (what will happen to Beverly?), tragedy (the death of Clara), horror (as the fantasy Cinderella love story of Beverly turns out to be a tale of violence), and politics (veterans’ issues)–something for every reader’s taste.”
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“The Mango Bride weaves a story that speaks of social class, diaspora life, and the exploitation of women.”
–Janus Isaac V. Nolasco
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“All families have their secrets, but in fiction, the wealthier and more powerful the family, the more secrets they keep. Make it a wealthy, fictional Filipino family, then you will have secrets that will inevitably come back to change everything.
This is what lies hidden in the luscious heart of prize-winning writer Marivi Soliven’s first novel, “The Mango Bride” (NAL Penguin Books, New York, 2013, 371 pages), a cunning chronicle of the Duarté-Guerrero clan’s covert compromises and the resulting consequences.
This is a novel of juxtaposition, of obligation and infidelity, of passion and practicality, privilege and limitation. A pretty page-turner, Marivi Soliven’s “The Mango Bride” is a dizzyingly enjoyable feat of storytelling that beguiles us with how all these disparate lives touch and proves to us that, in the end, everyone gets what they deserve.
After all, Marcela reminds us: “Too many lives have been ruined by these secrets.”
Available in paperback at National Book Store.
– Ruel S. de Veyra
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THE FEATHERED QUILL BOOK REVIEWS
“…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.
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…The Effective Use of Drama and Verisimilitude in The Mango Bride
“This is a refreshing approach to tell a story that highlights old issues that many have written about before but are still very much relevant today, like poverty and the vast difference between societal classes in the Philippines, the mail-order bride trade and the exploitation of women, the immigrant experience, the plight of war veterans, and even how we, as a culture, deal with secrets and shame and family values.” – Meann Ortiz
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