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Monsoon Mansion (Little A/Amazon, May 2018)

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.


Praise + Reviews

Barnes' highly anticipated memoir,  Monsoon Mansion, can by purchased at independent bookstores and via

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Susan Tekulve, author of In the Garden of Stone

“In this incandescent debut memoir, Cinelle Barnes forges memories of her family’s downfall with tumultuous Filipino history. Like the storm in its title, Monsoon Mansion immerses us in the darkest waters of memory, stirring up unbearably brutal childhood events with lyrical prose and searing imagery, forming a woven tale that is both delicate and electric. This book assures us that even when we lose those things that give shape to our humanity—our roots, culture, and family—we can go on to devise a new way of being.”

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Jim Minick, author of Fire Is Your Water

“The princess becomes a pauper before she turns eleven, yet through grit and love and words, that princess, Cinelle Barnes, escapes a fallen-in mansion and broken family to survive. Light fills this beautiful memoir—breaking through the dark loneliness of a mansion with no electricity. And light will fill you and carry you on, dear reader, even after you turn the last page. Monsoon Mansion sings a song of rain and sparkling light, and like its author, we’ll all come to know the diamonds we carry in our palms.”

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Booklist, Starred Review

“Barnes’ memoir chronicles her years spent growing up in a mansion in Manila. Her mother, a doctor, came from a well-known upper-class family, and her father was an entrepreneur who made his money sending Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia. Then the monsoon comes. Between water damage to the mansion and her father’s crusade to bring all his Filipino workers back during the Gulf War, her parents’ marriage rapidly deteriorates. When Barnes’ father leaves, he’s replaced by a walking nightmare; her mother’s new boyfriend sells deeds to nonexistent property and hosts cock fights at night, filling the mansion with bird feces, drunken men, and women rented by the hour. Barnes soon struggles to survive the madness while holding tightly to the hope that someday she will escape this life. Reminiscent of both Jeanette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle (2005), and Sandra Cisneros’ seminal novel The House on Mango Street (1984), this is a story of a tragic childhood told in a remarkably uplifting voice. Barnes imbues scenes from her interrupted childhood with an artistic touch that reads like literary fiction. Luminescent and shattering, Barnes’ first book is a triumph: a conquering of the past through the power of the written word.”