This Unforgettable Memoir Set In Florida Is Your 2024 Summer Beach Read

<p>Getty Images / globalmoments</p>

Getty Images / globalmoments

Annabelle Tometich’s new book The Mango Tree is as juicy as the tropical fruit itself. Billed as “a memoir of fruit, Florida, and felony,” this is the kind of captivating read that can pull you in for hours. But it’s also written in such a way that each chapter feels like its own little story, so it’s also ideal for picking up and putting down.

Related: 50 New Beach Reads Perfect For Summer 2024

<p>Hachette Book Group</p>

Hachette Book Group

Growing Up Filipino-American

The book starts with the felony. Annabelle is a journalist working at her local newspaper when she gets a call that her mother, Josefina, has been arrested for shooting someone who she says was trying to steal mangoes from her yard. Knowing her mother’s hot temper and obsession with her mango tree, this situation makes immediate sense to Annabelle and her siblings, who rally to help get Josefina out of jail.

Born to a Filipino mother and American father, Annabelle’s identity, family, and her birthplace—Fort Myers, Florida—are at the heart of the book. Narrating from the present day, Annabelle has the focused eye of a reporter as she takes readers through her childhood, where life at home is chaotic. Her parents fight bitterly, and her overburdened mother works constantly to support their family and relatives back in the Philippines. Unlike the other carefree kids in her suburban neighborhood, she has to raise her younger siblings and be responsible.

The family faces heartbreaking losses, too. In these chapters, you can feel young Annabelle’s pain and confusion as she tries to understand the world around her and her place in it, while older, present-day Annabelle adds depth and humor that comes with the passage of time.

Mangoes And Manila

There is joy, too. In one of my favorite chapters, the family goes to pick mangoes at a farm, filling bag after bag with heavy fruit. At home, they line the dining room table with newspapers and have a sticky, messy feast—a rare moment of togetherness. Other sections of the book take place in the Philippines, where Annabelle experiences a life that is entirely different than her own back in Florida, and sees her mother in a new light, too. In one memorable passage, she is whisked around Manila by her cool Tita (aunt) Perla, who takes her on a shopping spree that reads like a sixth grader's fever dream.

A Mother-Daughter Story

As Annabelle grows up, goes to college, and starts a career and family of her own, her relationship with her mother grows more difficult, and at times, things between them seem beyond repair. The story eventually circles back to Josefina's arrest and trial, from the beginning of the book. As the news circulates around town, it forces Annabelle to reckon with her complicated mother and her own identity.

Josefina was not always the supportive parent her children wanted, but her toughness is what helped her survive as an immigrant in this country and provide for her family. As Annabelle writes: "In this exotic, inhospitable terrain, my mother made a home for us, one she planted and grew on her own."

Related: 50 Books From The Past 50 Years Everyone Should Read At Least Once

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