Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Mango Orchard by Robin Bayley

Robin Bayley grew up in England hearing stories from his grandmother.  Most of these stories centered around his heroic great-grandfather, her father.  Arthur Greenhalgh had journeyed to Mexico a hundred years ago to seek his fortune.  He established himself, sent for Robin's great-grandmother and married her.  They had one child but as the political climate became more dangerous, Arthur sent her back to England.  They lived apart for several years, and Robin's grandmother was born and was past her toddler years before she ever saw her father.  Arthur finally left Mexico for good as the bloody Mexican Revolution erupted.

Somehow Robin always felt there was more to the story, some unfinished business of his great-grandfathers that only he could resolve.  At loose ends in England, he decided to retrace Arthur's footsteps and see if he could recreate his life.  He went to America, then on to South America.  He stopped for a month to learn more Spanish, then continued his journey.  Along the way he met witches, drug dealers, military bureaucrats who tried to make travel difficult, and everywhere, warm loving people.  The people were poor, but what they had they were willing to share.  Robin was able to locate the village his great-grandfather lived in, and it and it's people made their way into his heart.  There were surprises everywhere, but at the end of his journey, he knew his family history and all that went on.

The Mango Orchard is a fascinating look at both the region, its people and Bayley's journey.  His discoveries and travels are compelling enough to make this book a page-turner, and his optimism and enthusiasm are catching.  This book is recommended for readers of travel writing and anyone interested in tracing their heritage.

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