Cover Image: Mona in Three Acts

Mona in Three Acts

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Member Reviews

My favorite part about this book is definitely that Mona is a regular girl; she has no special skills or quicks or memorable personality traits, but she is sensitive, pensive, and incredibly intelligent. Even though it deals with a heavy topic (death and grief of a parent), I found myself unable to look away from the page. It is an engrossing story about a girl who is simply trying to keep it together after her mother's passing and reconcile with the grief she feels, even if the woman wasn't the nicest to her.
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Mona in Three Acts tells the story of a child growing to womanhood and how the actions of her family and others around her formed her thoughts, feelings and ability to deal with life. It is very relatable in how we often bend our will to others, allowing them to mold us, often causing us to keep our own desires at bay.

Mona's strict and sometimes cold mother is killed in a car crash when Mona is young, and her father quickly remarries. With a father who has been distant most of her life, and with a new, insecure and demanding woman as her new mother, Mona continues the desire to please mechanism she formed with her birth mom. Always trying to be helpful, blaming herself when things go wrong, and stuffing down her own feelings, she finally finds some release as an adult in working with a theater group.

Still, in her work and her choice of a lover, she doesn't even try to explore what really matters to her, she comes across as a "good girl" to her parents and as powerless but somewhat helpful in her job. She recognizes that things aren't wonderful, but seems unable or unwilling to change anything.

In the "third act" of the book, situations involving her father cause Mona to begin seeing things in a new way, and to alter relationships that had stayed stagnant for years.

Some may describe this story as depressing, but I didn't feel that way. Certainly at times I wanted Mona to just break out and break away, but actually her life seemed very realistic in many ways. I was definitely ready for the story to end, however, as I felt it dragged a little in the middle.

I applaud the translation from Dutch to English; it was done very well and I felt no awkwardness at all, as I have in the past with other translations.

Thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Crossing for an opportunity to review this book.
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Thank you Netgalley for the chance to read and review this title. I will review this title at a different date.
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I had a difficult time getting into this book, but part of me wonders if that is due to the translation - the story itself was interesting but on the depressing side.  I'd give this 2.5 stars.
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Is Mona extraordinary? Nah. But is she pensive, sensitive, and smart? You bet. So I got pulled into her trials and tribulations and had a good read. 

Mona’s family is dysfunctional (aren’t most?) and she goes through lots of turmoil as she grows up, but none of it is overly dramatic. I just loved buddying up with Mona while she pondered what was happening in her head and heart as life happened to her. The internal monologue never overpowered the story. Plot to pondering ratio: excellent. 

Like the book title says, there are three acts: Mona as a 9-year-old, Mona in her twenties, and Mona in her thirties. I liked Mona as a kid slightly more than Mona as an adult, because 1) she spends more time observing people and things, 2) she takes things literally (I always love that because it adds humor), and 3) she seems more unique as a kid. Occasionally the kid voice is too adult, a pet peeve of mine. 

Stand-out portrayals: her needy stepmom, her dad, and her boyfriend. Her boyfriend was a class-A jerk. There’s a sex scene where he is described in a super unappealing way—it’s pretty vivid—and from then on, I felt yucky whenever he was in the room. Kudos to the author for getting his yuckiness across to the reader.

Standout scene: being in a sweat lodge. Man was that vivid and cool!

Standout lines (I know, I know, I’ve overdone it, but honestly, it’s all I can do not to add twenty more):  

“Her teeth are very white, much whiter than Daddy’s, buttermilk compared to banana skin.”

“And now we’re supposed to call Marie Mommy. That’s like getting two kittens and calling them both Fraggle…”

“…some dreams stick to the roof of your head.”

“…because all of the hunger from all the times she didn’t finish her plate has gotten stuck in her body.”

“Consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative.”

“They couldn’t have looked more shocked if he’d just told them he was going to jail for stealing a truckload of zucchini.”

“I’ve been falling out of a window my whole life, that’s what it feels like.”

“Honestly, I missed my dad more because the absence of a person who’s standing right in front of you is more intense, it seems.”

“If you ask people what’s the best feeling you can have, most of them will say being in love or having an orgasm, but I know differently. It’s relief: being afraid, waiting, and then the moment of salvation.”

The author, from Belgium, is an award winner in her country, and this is her first book to be translated into English. I couldn’t tell that this was a translation, always an excellent sign. I hope more of her work is translated.  

This is a good little story. I highlighted a lot (as you can see from the quotes I pulled), which is why I rounded up my rating to 4 stars. Check this one out!

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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I quit at about 30%. I just couldn’t get into it. I think It’s a book people may really enjoy, but it wasn’t for me right now.
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It was a little difficult to get into this book but the story is an interesting one, about coming of age.
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This book was a bit hard to get into. I'm not sure if it was the original writing or just the translation of it, but I couldn't really enjoy it because of it. I thought the story was intriguing, and so were the characters, but again, I couldn't really enjoy it because of the writing.
I'm sad to say it wasn't for me.
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Thank you Netgalley and the author for giving me Arc of Mona in Three Acts. 

There are 3 parts of the story. First are Mona childhood, the second one was when she was in her twenties and the last part was in her thirties. 

Mona lost her mom at young age because of the accident. But she feels nothing because her mom kinda harsh on her. 

Mona's father got married to Marie and her mood changes every second. She has to sacrificed her own feelings to help Marie being happy and make peace for the family.

Mona got on my nerves a lot. I was like why she chose Louis? How can she stayed with that guy for a long time?  Goshhh

This is a good book but I need more dialogues. I skipped some parts where there are no dialogue lol
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We first meet Mona when she is almost ten, locked in a dark room in the basement by her mother, Agnes and accepting the punishment as her due since she has internalized her mother's criticisms of her being difficult and poorly behaved. But, the cruel discipline soon ends when her parents are in a devastating car accident that kills Agnes.

Mona's distant father, Vincent, waits only nine months before marrying Marie whose moods are erratic. Marie often lapses into paranoia, believing Mona or her brother Alexander's benign behavior to be a deliberate slight. Mona learns to repress her emotions to humor Marie and keep peace in the family. Highly verbal with a rich interior life, the precocious child is observant and insightful but given her age is not always accurate in her observations. 

Part II finds Mona, in her mid-twenties, at a turning point in her life when she accepts a position with an acclaimed theater producer/director and meets a famous author while Part III presents Mona in her mid-thirties as she faces personal and professional crises wondering if she can ever escape the patterns she learned as a child.

For me, reading Mona in Three Acts, set in Belgium, written by Griet Op de Beeck, and translated by Michele Hutchison, was a pleasure. I really felt for Mona in my bones, and I particularly enjoyed Part I, when she was trying to understand adult problems through a child's perspective. Above all, the book is a character study, and its structure allows the reader to watch Mona's evolution over time. Personally, I also really like books that have gaps like this where the events of the intervening years are puzzles to solve.

Mona's central challenge—the pull between fulfilling family responsibility and expectations and pursuing individual passions—as well as her challenging relationships with her father and stepmother reflect universal conflicts, and I think many readers can if not see themselves in Mona certainly empathize with her. She also has some brilliant reflections: I highlighted many passages!

I was satisfied with everything in the book, but I did wish the novel had developed certain areas more, particularly how outsiders like spouses and boy/girlfriends relate to the family dynamics and a subplot about a conflict between Marie and one of Mona's younger siblings which felt incomplete.

I really enjoyed Mona in Three Acts, and I wasn't ready for it to end. Readers who enjoy literary fiction, character-driven novels, and books in translation should consider this book.
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This was an interesting book because it is not at all my usual reading fare. Mona is divided into three parts, the main character at different ages, starting as a child. The story is depressing and saddening - hard to read for these reasons, as well as because I too have lost my dad to cancer and also because of the child abuse scenes. Mona didn't luck out in very well when it came to mothers. The style of writing was quick and engaging, and to me nothing was lost in translation. This would be a good book to recommend if you want something gritty and something that doesn't end in a happily-ever-after romance. I interpret it as a story of a woman coming of age and learning to know who she herself is and subsequently learning to love herself. Thanks, Netgalley, for this arc. This novel isn't what I expected, but it was still a pretty good read.
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Fans of the dysfunctional family story will find this Dutch version interesting.  It's divided into three parts, each detailing (sometimes too much so) Mona's life beginning when she is 9 and then in her twenties, and finally as she resolves things with her dying father.  It's well written and translated but it felt a bit cold to me.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  A good opportunity to read an important writer in translation.
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Split into three distinct moments in a woman's life, we follow our title character Mona as she grows from a young girl to an independent woman. Her life and relationships are less than ideal as she deals with the hardships of her upbringing. 

This was a rough story, as it shows how detrimental our parents can be to our overall development. Mona has to struggle with forms of destruction—an emotional abusive mother and an absent father. While there were some funny moments, I just couldn't connect with any characters and that could have been because of the fact that it was translated. 

Loved the concept, just not for me.
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“Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for my  review copy “

Although I had a hard time to get into the story at the beginning, in the first act as the title suggests as well, the story picks up a lot after the second part and it makes good and reliable points in a young woman life nowadays. The way she sees life now and how she got there, her upbringing was an interesting read overall, heartbreaking at times but as said, reliable.
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I loved following the three stages of Mona. Mona as a child, Mona as an Adolescent, and Mona now. Her transformation, self discovery, and will to persevere was so entertaining and heartwarming, What a beautiful story 

Synopsis: Mona’s demanding mother ruled their home until a car crash took her life and changed their family forever. Left to tend to a distant father and a needy younger brother, Mona finds her new role almost too much to bear. And when a new stepmother, troubled and depressed, adds yet another crack to the family portrait, Mona’s forced to shoulder an even greater share of the emotional burden.

Somewhere between her responsibility to her family and to her own life, Mona finds a route of escape: in a theater career she craves. But for every challenge ahead—romantic, professional, sexual, and familial—Mona wonders how much of her future has already been defined by the challenges of her past.

An emotional, funny, and universal novel about the people, experiences, and choices that make us who we are, Mona in Three Acts is a revelatory journey of a woman’s self-discovery, forgiveness, and courage to finally speak her truth.
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3.5 stars but not quite 4 for me.

Every now and then, I read a book by an author from another country that was published in the language of that country and translated into English. When I do I often wonder if the translated version reflects what the author intended or reflects how good the writing might have been in the original language. I can’t say I was taken by the writing, but I was by the story. I was drawn to read this because of my friend Jaidee’s beautiful and powerful review. I didn’t love it as much as Jaidee, but I appreciated the story and I was moved.  It’s a coming of age story of a young girl in a dysfunctional family and how the things that happened in her childhood impacted her life as she becomes a woman. It was heartbreaking at times and I couldn’t help but root for Mona every step of the way as we see her as a nine year old girl and then in her twenties and thirties in the next two parts or “acts”. But I can’t say I liked any of the other characters very much. 
At nine when she loses her mother, Mona seems to intuitively respond by caring for her younger brother. She finds it hard to shed a tear, and perhaps we have an idea why, but yet she is clearly affected and confused about how she should feel, at one point thinking that she doesn’t know if she should feel happy when she’s reading a book. Part One was the most affecting for me as Mona and her brother survive what a consider questionable parenting on the part of her father. A stepmother who definitely has issues and constantly needs reassurance and acceptance, puts Mona in the position of having to cater to her stepmother’s emotional needs while setting aside her own. The turmoil in this family and in this little girl’s head is depicted in such a realistic way and I can only say how sad I was for this little girl.

In the second part Mona is forging her way in the theater world as a “dramaturge”. ( I had to look that up  “a literary advisor or editor...who adapts scripts”.) She’s also struggling through relationships with men. Not much seems to have changed with Mona as she always seems to concede to those around her - her family, her boyfriend, her work associates. In the third part, in her thirties, when things about the past come to light through her father’s death bed conversations, I felt hopeful for Mona and that she might just find herself and her own voice. A powerful statement of how traumatic, or emotionally stifling events in the past can impact one for years to come. Even though I didn’t love it, it was worth reading.

You should read my friend Jaidee’s beautiful review which led me this book :

I received an advanced copy of this book from Amazon Crossing through NetGalley.
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Thank you to AmazonCrossing and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This contemporary novel centers around coming of age in a dysfunctional family, and shows how events in our childhood shape how we think, act and interact as adults. The story is told in three acts from the POV of Mona - as a young child of 9, as a young woman in her late 20s, and eleven years later. The author does a remarkable job of capturing the thoughts and feelings for Mona in each time period of her life - but most particularly as a young child. Unfortunately, Mona retains that naive childish outlook on life, which really got on my nerves after a while and made reading through the second and third part of the book a bit of a slog. Finally, at the very end, she grabs back her life, and makes what seems to be a promising turn toward happiness, by turning away from the manipulators that have controlled her life for so long.

Overall, this was very well-written, but about 150 pages too long for my taste.
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The cover drew me in initially but the moment you read it, you realize that there is more than just judging a book by its cover. Mona's story was heartbreaking but its complexity is a standout. Themes featured in this book were hard to read but they written so beautifully you just can't help but be moved.
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Mona in Three Acts was originally written by Griet Op De Beeck and later translated from Flemish to English. Since Dutch is my first language and that is very similar to Flemish, I could really tell at times that it was a translation. The way certain things are explained as well as certain sayings reflected the original language quite a bit. It was very recognisable for me, which I thought was fun.

The story is about Mona and we learn about her at three different stages in her life. First as a young girl of about ten years old, then as a young adult of about 24 and finally as a grown woman of 35. For me, the first stage was the most interesting one. Mona makes so many wise observations for a small girl that it made me wonder whether kinds truly understand that much of what is going on. Additionally, I think it’s incredible to see how parents can screw up the ideas and thoughts of children without even realising it. Mona’s paradigm of the world is completely distorted because of how she is treated and it shows throughout her entire life.

As the book continued and showed us more about Mona as a grown-up I was constantly waiting for her to realise how screwed up she had become and I really wanted her to throw her life around and live for herself more. To do what would make her happy. That didn’t happen until the last ten pages or so. It sort of just went on and on and on.

In the end I wasn’t very excited about this book. Not enough happened to keep me interested for the 449 pages that this book contains.
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Mona in Three Acts will be in my top ten books this year, My heart ached and I was horrified.  I laughed and cried because I know a Mona, but this book, it demands to be read. Thank you NetGalley for opportunity to read for a fair review.
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