Awards: Longlist – 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize
A vivid love letter to the 1980s and one woman’s struggle to overcome the challenges of immigration.
It’s 1986, and Muna Heddad is in a bind. She and her son have moved to Montreal, leaving behind a civil war filled with bad memories in Lebanon. She had plans to find work as a French teacher, but no one in Quebec trusts her to teach the language. She needs to start making money, and fast. The only work Muna can find is at a weight-loss center as a hotline operator.
All day, she takes calls from people responding to ads seen in magazines or on TV. On the phone, she’s Mona, and she’s quite good at listening. These strangers all have so much to say once someone shows interest in their lives–marriages gone bad, parents dying, isolation, personal inadequacies. Even as her daily life in Canada is filled with invisible barriers at every turn, at the office Muna is privy to her clients’ deepest secrets.
Following international acclaim for Niko (2011) and The Bleeds (2018), Dimitri Nasrallah has written a vivid elegy to the 1980s, the years he first moved to Canada, bringing the era’s systemic challenges into the current moment through this deeply endearing portrait of struggle, perseverance, and bonding.