- Amparo Guerrero –A beautiful young woman from Manila, Philippines who travels to Oakland, California, and must re-build her life. Amparo was born into extreme wealth so she never had to work. She was able to attend classes at University of the Philippines, despite her traditional minded mother's protest. Her mother values status and image more than anything, she wanted to control Amparo to ensure she represented the family well. All of the work she did means nothing after Amparo becomes pregnant. Due to the public shame and stigma surrounding pre-marital sex and abortion, her mother exiles her from the family. Although Amparo had plans on keeping the baby, her boyfriend- the son of a prominent politician- forces her to terminate the pregnancy. In this novel, Amparo represents the women who are silenced and shamed by a patriarchal society. At first, Amparo did not fully understand the value of her privilege and status in Manila until she lost it all. Her life in California, where she starts a career as a Tagalog interpreter, is full of uncertainty and struggles. Her job leads her to have brief but impactful interactions with men and women who share the same home as her, and in those interactions she gains knowledge and understanding of the struggles others face as well.
- Beverly Obejas – A sweet young woman with a tragic past. Beverly works tirelessly as a waitress in Manila, but constantly dreams of the better life her mother promised her as a young girl. She horrifically loses her mother in an unforeseeable accident that left her in the care of her godmother, and Amparo's house-cook, Marcela. Due to her class status, Beverly is taken advantage of and degraded. She becomes increasingly angrier with her life and will do anything for better opportunities. While visiting her mother's grave on the anniversary of her death, she runs into her child hood friend Lisa, who introduces her to the world of Mail Order Brides. Not fully understanding what she was signing up for, and being a bit blinded by the desire for a better life, Beverly creates a profile on the site Filipina Sweetheart. Her future from there is complicated and much darker than she could ever anticipate. The connections between Beverly and Amparo run deeper than first assumed, and create a strong bond between the two women so that they can rely on one another even through their darkest days.
- Señora Concha- The Matriarch of the Guerrero family. Despite all of her wealth and status she is a horribly unhappy woman. She controls every detail of the house, including the banishment of her daughter Amparo. She values how society perceives the family more than anything else, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain their status. The Señora represents how tradition and prestige do not equal love and happiness.
- Marcela – Marcela is the house cook for the Guerrero's. She is the maternal figure for all of the Señora's children, after it was tasked on to her to raise them. She is also Beverly's godmother, and took on the mother figure for her as well after her mother, and Marcela's sister, Cella, was killed in a tragic accident. The relationships Marcela is able to create and maintain throughout the novel is a great example of how family does not mean blood.
- Mateo – Mateo is the mysterious and handsome son of a prestigious politician who is able to charm his way through life. He and Amparo met in their class at the University of the Philippines, and from there a passionate relationship followed. But, when things get complicated and Amparo needs Mateo's help, he ignores her and only acts on what is best for him. His control over Amparo was founded on his status and the importance of maintaining a positive image of his family.
- Uncle Aldo – Uncle Aldo is Amparo's loving uncle who was also banished from his home in his early twenties. He is the closest thing to family that Amparo has. The two of them have a strong bond, but it also clouded by secrets as he is unwilling to share his own mistakes with Amparo. Uncle Aldo understands Amparo's struggle better than anyone else. The support he provides to her while she is still trying to get on her feet is invaluable to her.
- Cella – The hardworking mother of Beverly, and younger sister of Marcela. Cella's memory is often a motivating force for the two women as they go through their life. Beverly constantly hopes that what she is doing is making her mother proud, and Marcela wants nothing more than to provide the life for Beverly that Cella always wanted. Cella's past is much more important to Beverly's future than anyone could anticipate.
- Josiah- The controlling and abusive husband of Beverly. He is the perfect example of toxic masculinity and "traditional" values. The tactics he uses to maintain power over Beverly perfectly highlight the struggles of immigrant women. His motivations and actions can be seen in thousands of abusive relationships today.
- Gender- Gender plays a critical role in this novel. It is a symbol of power and weakness. Soliven is using gender to highlight the oppression and control of women in both the Philippines and America. Gender has different meanings as the characters travel, and they have to learn how function under new systems and adapt. Their gender directly influences how they are treated and how they must treat others. Throughout this novel, characters attempt to maintain the gender roles pushed on to them through their work or their family life. The main characters show readers what it means to break beyond the confines of gender roles and fulfill your life based on your own desire.
- Family – Family is the foundation of the character's lives. Their entire future is decided by their family. This novel also showcases that families are not always set in blood but can be made, and what it means for a family to truly love you. Soliven uses family as a central theme in this novel because of the complex connections and the amount of secrets every family has. She is also using this theme to comment on the influence family members have over one another and how every family has its on unique set of power dynamics.
- Freedom– The main question this novel asks readers to consider is: what would you do for freedom? Freedom is given to some while others have to fight tooth and nail for it. This novel constantly reminds readers that freedom comes with a price, and that you have to be willing to pay it for what you want. This theme is central to the novel because freedom has a different meaning for each character. It is also an important for readers to reflect on the freedom they have and understand how it differs from the privileges and opportunities of others.
"America was an ocean whose restless inhabitants floated from one city to the next, dissembling, reinventing, ultimately forgetting what they'd left behind. Its vast anonymity made the country unnavigable for women like Monina." ― The Mango Bride, pg. 42
"Something clicked in Beverly's mind. Access. That was what a wealthy man guaranteed. Access to the better life her mother had promised" ― The Mango Bride, pg. 145
"Wives hang on to their husbands long after the marriage is dead." ― The Mango Bride, pg. 196
"Recognition passed between them, each one wondering how the other Filipina had come to be there, so many miles from home." ― The Mango Bride, pg. 252
"She recognized the question in their eyes; it was the same one she asked whenever she saw white men with a Filipina: Whore or wife?" ― The Mango Bride, pg.206
Veronika Lynch ’19