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A story of family dramas with memorable characters in a vibrant, unusual setting

Mango Bay, by Serena Fairfax is a family saga, mostly set in the Bene Israel community in India. I was intrigued by the brief look at Bene Israel life in Flowers In The Blood, and interested in reading more about it. 

Mango Bay starts with a whirlwind romance between Scottish Audrey and Bene Israel Nat, and that's the central question of the story: Can they build a happy life together, or are their differences too much for a happy marriage? 

I enjoyed seeing how Nat matures over the years, while maintaining his personality. As a young man. he means well, but takes the path of least resistance in bringing his new foreign bride home and helping her acclimate to life in his family, and throughout the novel, he continues to take the path of least resistance in other conflicts in his life. Readers see again and again how his aversion to facing conflict adds to the conflict in his life. So real. 

Audrey's present for a lot of the family drama, almost like a Nick Carraway-style observer of the community. Explaining Bene Israel customs to Audrey worked well to explain this to the reader, too. The Bene Israels keep most of the Jewish holidays, but with a distinctly Indian style and without formal rabbis, and it was so interesting to discover the characters and customs in Audrey's new home. A few times, I found myself wondering what Audrey felt about all the events she was in the room for, but since I choose this novel out of interest in Bene Israel life, I didn't mind too much. She has an outsider's perspective on the community, until one day she doesn't. 

The pacing is slightly off -- at times, we have a detailed description of every word of a dance night's program or every dish at a dinner (which I freaking loved. I want ALL THE DETAILS in my historical novels!), and at other times, the narration picks up years into the future or brushes over what felt like a major development. At one point there's a time jump, and a child who was barely born in the last section lands in terrible danger. I mean, of course I don't want to see a child in danger, but with just a little more character development, this subplot could have been really tense and moving. 

Overall, I enjoyed discovering the community, meeting the Zachariah family and their friends, and seeing their lives unfold. There are a lot of surprises in this book with realistic family conflicts in an engaging setting. 

Reviewed by

I'm an avid reader and book blogger, I'm always looking for new books and new authors. I like historical fiction, literature, scifi, specfic, thrillers (without gore) and general character-driven fiction. I usually cross-post my Reedsy reviews to my book blog.

About the author

Some of Serena’s novels have a strong romantic arc although she burst the romance bubble with one quirky departure. Other novels pull the reader into the dark corners of family life and relationships. She enjoys the challenge of experimenting and writing in different genres. view profile

Published on September 30, 2020

90000 words

Genre: Women's Fiction

Reviewed by