After two heartbreaking losses, Luna wants adventure. Something and somewhere very different from the affluent, sheltered home in California and Hawaii where she grew up. And it must be an adventure in which she can make some difference.
Lucien, a worldly, well-traveled young architect, finds a stranger’s journal at a café. He has qualms and pangs of guilt about reading it. But they don’t stop him. His decision to go on reading changes his life.
Months later, they meet at a bookstore. Fascinated by his stories and adventurous spirit, Luna goes to a rural rice-growing village in a country 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?
An epistolary tale of courage, resilience, and the bonds that bring diverse people together.
Journey’s three-dimensional, well-developed characters carry this appealing story of building new bonds in the midst of loss and heartache. Lucien is immediately intrigued by everything he learns about Luna through her writing, and his understanding of their separate but parallel voyages lends realism and poignancy to this tale. Journey skillfully weaves their independent personal histories together, allowing the protagonists to alight in each other’s lives momentarily while forming meaningful relationships at the same time. Readers will feel equally hopeful and melancholy as Lucien and Luna traverse the beginning stages of a deepening relationship, only to have it disrupted when Luna receives a Peace Corps assignment and leaves to teach children in a rural village in Cambodia.
Luna’s desire to make a difference after leading a sheltered lifestyle is a motivating undercurrent to the tender story, although her parts of the story are plagued by an abundance of descriptive passages that sometimes impede the narrative. Journey frames this gentle novel with episodes of violence, but the way the two main characters face various vicissitudes are enough to keep readers turning the pages. This emotional story, with its clear prose and crisp dialogue, will appeal to those who enjoy romantic literature and are not afraid to engage with the ugliness of the real world.
Takeaway: This emotional novel of love and happenstance will touch readers’ hearts.
Great for fans of: Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B
The Shade Under the Mango Tree by Evy Journey is a dazzling, globe-spanning tale of two interconnected lives, bound in an unlikely way, but forever changed by the connection.
From a simple lost notebook comes an unusual storybook romance, a tale of growing up and seeing the world, of saying goodbye and remembering lost things. Luna and Lucien are the star-crossed protagonists whose lives are dissected with intimate, in-depth character studies, making their unpredictable bond a pleasure to unravel.
Lucien’s discovery of Luna’s journal, and the eventual crossing of their paths, feels like the plot of a familiar romance, but this story is far more complex. The introduction provides a grim vision of Luna’s future, and the rest of the book plots the inevitable course leading back to that point. In a beautiful way, the story explores how powerful connections can be born at a distance, across time and space, without any expectation or hope, yet still change a person’s life.
The temporal flexibility of the prose gives readers a complete perspective in a more interesting way than a basic memoir or collection of journal entries. Granted, some of the journal passages read more like functional prose than personal reflections that might be found in a diary, but this is a small conceit – the storyline is rich and vulnerable, with authentic emotional struggles and believable relationships. Throughout, simple, evocative language and bold descriptions are intermingled with flashes of poetic imagery.
Aided by strong thematic undertones, subtle symbolism, high stakes and an ultimately hopeful narrative voice, Evy Journey has delivered a captivating story about following your heart no matter where it leads, and forging your own path.