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"A vivid love letter to the 1980s and one womans struggle to overcome the challenges of immigration. Its 1986, and after four months of unemployment Muna Heddad is in a bind. She and her son have moved to Montreal from Beirut to escape a never-ending civil war. She had plans to find work as a French teacher, but no one in Quebec has confidence in a new arrival like 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 where she gets a job as a hotline operator. All day, she takes calls from people responding to ads seen in magazines or on TV. On the phone, shes Mona, and shes 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. Much to her surprise, Muna finds that she is actually becoming successful at selling diet plans. Even though shes pretending to be someone else, her natural empathy cant help but shine when listening to the confidential tribulations of people who, elsewhere in life, wouldnt sit with her for lunch or offer her a job. Following international acclaim for Niko (2011) and The Bleeds (2018), Dimitri Nasrallah has written a vivid love letter to the 1980s, bringing this era of Montreal into the current moment through his deeply endearing portrait of Muna Heddads struggle."--… (mais)
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Canada Reads 2023 certainly had five amazing books chosen for debate. I wasn't able to read them all before the debate started but I knew that I would have to a copy of this book after so many people praised it. My public library obviously had a lot of other patrons who felt the same way as this book has a lengthy hold list.

Muna Heddad moved to Montreal with her young son Omar from Lebanon. As a trained French teacher she thought she would be able to get a job in a school but no school wanted an immigrant to teach French. She was close to running out of funds when she saw an ad for telephone solicitors for a weight loss company. On the telephone to the company's customers she was Mona and it didn't matter that she had dark skin and wasn't born in Canada. She can even save money on food by taking home the boxes of the company's products. Still, it's a hard existence for her and Omar living in a one bedroom apartment with little to call their own. Muna spends the few hours after Omar goes to bed lying on the sofa bed watching old movies on TV and thinking about her husband, Halim. It was Halim's idea that they leave Lebanon and move to Canada but before the papers were approved Halim was kidnapped and never seen again. Muna believes he is dead but in her loneliness she can almost feel him next to her. Muna turns out to be good at the job and starts earning substantial commissions. However, the winter weather in Montreal is so fierce and the clothing she bought is of such poor quality that neither she nor Omar can be outdoors for any longer than absolutely necessary. One bright spot in this time is Omar getting asked on a play date with a Chinese school mate. When Muna takes him to the boy's apartment and meets his mother her good French skills are noticed. The Chinese woman talks Muna into teaching her French and soon Muna has lots of adult students to teach on weekends. This also provides a source of funds that she will need in order to find better accommodations. As spring finally comes to the city Muna realizes that she is capable of raising her son and being successful in Canada. And then she gets an unexpected phone call about her husband.

The author says at the end of this book that he based it on his mother's experiences when she came to Canada. I was most impressed with how well a man could verbalize a woman's thoughts. His mother must have made a lasting impression on him. ( )
  gypsysmom | May 8, 2023 |
This is the story of Muna, a refugee who has come to Montreal from Lebanon with her young son. Her husband has been kidnapped and is presumed dead. The book tells of the challenges Muna faces in finding a job and a place to live. Though a qualified teacher and fluent in French, the best job Muna can secure is at a weight-loss company's call centre. As we follow Muna in her first year in Canada, we share her struggles and successes. She is a strong character and I enjoyed getting to know her.

That said, the book was a bit light in exploring Muna's challenges and her feelings about the husband she left behind. It didn't really show the ugly side of racism and the despair a single mother would feel at leaving her child alone when he is ill. It's a little too "feel good" to be an accurate portrayal, I think. ( )
1 vote LynnB | Mar 13, 2023 |
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"A vivid love letter to the 1980s and one womans struggle to overcome the challenges of immigration. Its 1986, and after four months of unemployment Muna Heddad is in a bind. She and her son have moved to Montreal from Beirut to escape a never-ending civil war. She had plans to find work as a French teacher, but no one in Quebec has confidence in a new arrival like 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 where she gets a job as a hotline operator. All day, she takes calls from people responding to ads seen in magazines or on TV. On the phone, shes Mona, and shes 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. Much to her surprise, Muna finds that she is actually becoming successful at selling diet plans. Even though shes pretending to be someone else, her natural empathy cant help but shine when listening to the confidential tribulations of people who, elsewhere in life, wouldnt sit with her for lunch or offer her a job. Following international acclaim for Niko (2011) and The Bleeds (2018), Dimitri Nasrallah has written a vivid love letter to the 1980s, bringing this era of Montreal into the current moment through his deeply endearing portrait of Muna Heddads struggle."--

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