The Mango Tree

A Memoir of Fruit, Florida, and Felony


By Annabelle Tometich

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Eater's Best Food Books to Read This Spring

This “witty, humorous, and heartfelt“ (Cinelle Barnes) memoir navigates the tangled branches of Annabelle Tometich’s life, from growing up in Florida as the child of a Filipino mother and a deceased white father to her adult life as a med-school-reject-turned-food-critic.

When journalist Annabelle Tometich picks up the phone one June morning, she isn’t expecting a collect call from an inmate at the Lee County Jail. And when she accepts, she certainly isn’t prepared to hear her mother’s voice on the other end of the line. However, explaining the situation to her younger siblings afterwards was easy; all she had to say was, “Mom shot at some guy. He was messing with her mangoes.” They immediately understood. Answering the questions of the breaking-news reporter—at the same newspaper where Annabelle worked as a restaurant critic––proved more difficult. Annabelle decided to go with a variation of the truth: it was complicated.

So begins The Mango Tree, a poignant and deceptively entertaining memoir of growing up as a mixed-race Filipina “nobody” in suburban Florida as Annabelle traces the roots of her upbringing—all the while reckoning with her erratic father’s untimely death in a Fort Myers motel, her fiery mother’s bitter yearning for the country she left behind, and her own journey in the pursuit of belonging.

With clear-eyed compassion and piercing honesty, The Mango Tree is a family saga that navigates the tangled branches of Annabelle’s life, from her childhood days in an overflowing house flooded by balikbayan boxes, vegetation, and juicy mangoes, to her winding path from medical school hopeful to restaurant critic. It is a love letter to her fellow Filipino Americans, her lost younger self, and the beloved fruit tree at the heart of her family. But above all, it is an ode to Annabelle’s hot-blooded, whip-smart mother Josefina, a woman who made a life and a home of her own, and without whom Annabelle would not have herself.

  • "The writing is both jewel-like and effortless, and Tometich's memories — some mundane, some extraordinary — are mesmerizing."
    Shannon Rhoades, NPR's Weekend Edition
  • “In reclaiming Josefina from the mug shot and clickbait headlines that followed her arrest, the author opens the door to something even more lasting, and possibly more severe: a daughter’s unflinching gaze… [Tometich] writes scene and dialogue with the metronomic precision of a seasoned broadsheet reporter, her ledes and kickers often bearing a sly, precocious slant.”
    The New York Times Book Review
  • “In seeking to understand the complexity of her mother’s life, Tometich reveals the difficulties that many immigrants and multiracial families face as they try to find a way to belong.”
    The Washington Post
  • "[A] sweet, sharp memoir."
    The New York Times
  • “Tometich’s measured tenderness and understanding grant complexity and authenticity to a story about finding one’s identity and owning its source. A well-paced, nuanced memoir by a practiced storyteller.”
  • “Tometich writes with awe and humor about her irascible mother, who provided her children with a middle-class upbringing, while never underplaying the emotional toll extracted along the way. It’s a moving account of coming to terms with the forces—good and bad—that shape a person.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • "Not-so-perfect family dynamics—and the wounds that emerge from them—are popular literary fuel because of their universality. Yet it’s rare to see an author give an honest account of every bit of it, which in this case includes added layers of tragedy, racism and class struggle: the sting of hearing her grandmother use a slur against her mother, the bittersweetness of seeing her mother care for Tometich’s own child, the reckoning about the harm that was intended as good parenting. And, of course, the moment Tometich comes to recognize that it really is impossible to separate herself from her upbringing. In the end, The Mango Tree reminds us that all trees derive strength from their roots."
    Bookpage (starred)
  • The Mango Tree is a story about a life spent focused on finding your place in the world, only to discover yourself instead. To oldest daughters who have raised siblings and those in need of an honest look at the pain and humor in complicated family love, Annabelle Tometich has written the book you've been waiting for.”
    Minda Honey, author of The Heartbreak Years
  • The Mango Tree introduces us to a debut author ready to bend our understanding of Florida, Filipino American life, and motherhood. Witty, humorous, and heartfelt, Annabelle Tometich's unflinching memoir is a welcome and necessary addition to contemporary Asian-American literature. Tometich fills the need for a book that is so readable, so nuanced in its storytelling, and so forgiving in its portrayal of an overburdened, culturally isolated immigrant mother making a life for herself and children. Many times, I saw myself as the narrator and, more unexpectedly, as her mother. That's a sign to me of a book written with a keen eye and an open heart. This will be a gift to Filipinos and Filipino Americans everywhere.”
    Cinelle Barnes, author of Monsoon Mansion and Malaya: Essays on Freedom
  • "Smart and compelling, funny and devastating, The Mango Tree gets to the heart of what matters—our relationships with our families, our world and ultimately ourselves. This is the kind of memoir that stays with you long after the final page."
    Artis Henderson, author of Unremarried Widow
  • “With candor, curiosity, and humor, Annabelle Tometich, a self-proclaimed ‘nobody,’ peels away the stories behind the stories to find the seed of truth about her family, typically American in some ways and unique in others. Full of humor, sharp observations, and a beating heart, The Mango Tree is an entertaining must-read.”
    Grace Talusan, author of The Body Papers
  • "Hoy! In this rollicking memoir, food writer and critic Tometich introduces us to the chaos that is her Fort Myers, Florida, childhood. From her BB-gun-wielding mom to the extended relatives from the Philippines who pass through, it proves the point that all families are a little wild!"
    Curtis Chin, author of Everything I Learned, I Learned in a Chinese Restaurant

On Sale
Apr 2, 2024
Page Count
320 pages

Annabelle Tometich

About the Author

Annabelle Tometich went from medical-school flunky to line cook to journalist to author. She spent eighteen years as a food writer, editor, and restaurant critic for The News-Press in her hometown of Fort Myers, Florida. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, Catapult, the Tampa Bay Times, and many more publications. Tometich has won more than a dozen awards for her stories, including first place for Features Writing from the Florida Society of News Editors in 2020. She (still) lives in Fort Myers with her husband, two children, and her ever-fiery Filipina mother. You can find her online at

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