Book Review: An Embarrassment of Mangoes

An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude

Anne Vanderhoof

For my second wanderlust-inducing book I have chosen An Embarrassment of Mangoes.  I have recently (for the past year and a half or so) been completely obsessed with books that have something to do with quitting your job/school/life etc. and going on an epic adventure for a year or more.  I’m not sure what that specific genre is called (I like to call it #goals) and I have an entire shelf filled with books of similar substance.

This particular book tells the story of 40’s year-old Ann Vanderhoof and her husband Steve, as they make the decision to develop a 5-year plan that includes saving, investing, and planning for a two-year boat expedition that starts in Toronto, and follows the East Coast south towards the string of islands throughout the Caribbean.  Facing her fears, not only of leaving her past life behind, but of heading into vastly unknown territory (both in terms of physical location and the realm of sailing), Vanderhoof describes her inner conflict, huge personal and relational growth, and desire to adopt a new attitude, and way of life, during, and even after, their sailing trip is complete.

Having been to a miniscule percentage of the islands located in the Caribbean, this book brought back wonderful memories, thoughts, and questions about the places I’ve visited.  Vanderhoof does a wonderful job describing island life, and the way each island can differ so vastly from one another, while all still displaying the shared sense of connection from being part of the Caribbean community.

One of my favorite pieces of the book is the way Vanderhoof talks about food.  Her stories allow you to see, smell, and taste each dish as it is deliciously crafted through words in front of you, making you crave seafood, mangoes, rice.  As a token of mercy, Vanderhoof includes many of the recipes she taunts her readers with, ending each chapter with specific instructions for creating rich shrimp and grits, refreshing mango salad, and even a few of her mixed drinks, involving her collection of rum from around the islands.

If you are interested in:
a) Learning more about the Caribbean lifestyle
b) Understanding what living on a boat for two years is like
c) Making a drastic and profound alteration in your life and changing it for the better

then this is the book for you!  Factual, humorous, and captivating, you won’t want the trip to end!

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