Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir

Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir


This memoir about growing up in an actual mansion in the Philippines is a coming-of-age story. You know she's telling a true story, but it does in many ways read like a novel. It's bittersweet but, to be clear, mostly bitter. But there's a strong note of hope at the end and that comes from her unflagging courage in the face of unimaginable circumstances. Her mom came from money, her dad was a successful international businessman and the house represented everything they had achieved. But this is a riches-to-rags story. Thanks to real-life events in the Middle East, the one successful business run by her father begins to get shakier. Seeing clear trouble in the horizon financially, they use all the resources they have remaining to turn this mansion into a place they can rent out for events and movie shootings. Then, in a natural act that could not be more symbolic, a record-breaking monsoon comes and floods the home and ruins everything. It wipes them out and scatters the family and brings new shady characters in to live with Barnes and her family. They endure misfortune after misfortune. It feels unrelenting, but she tells all this in a very lyrical voice that's personal but feels universal.

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About the Book

Publisher’s description:

Told with a lyrical, almost-dreamlike voice as intoxicating as the moonflowers and orchids that inhabit this world, Monsoon Mansion is a harrowing yet triumphant coming-of-age memoir exploring the dark, troubled waters of a family’s rise and fall from grace in the Philippines. It would take a young warrior to survive it.

Cinelle Barnes was barely three years old when her family moved into Mansion Royale, a stately ten-bedroom home in the Philippines. Filled with her mother’s opulent social aspirations and the gloriously excessive evidence of her father’s self-made success, it was a girl’s storybook playland. But when a monsoon hits, her father leaves, and her mother’s terrible lover takes the reins, Cinelle’s fantastical childhood turns toward tyranny she could never have imagined. Formerly a home worthy of magazines and lavish parties, Mansion Royale becomes a dangerous shell of the splendid palace it had once been.

In this remarkable ode to survival, Cinelle creates something magical out of her truth—underscored by her complicated relationship with her mother. Through a tangle of tragedy and betrayal emerges a revelatory journey of perseverance and strength, of grit and beauty, and of coming to terms with the price of family—and what it takes to grow up.

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