Both beguilingly approachable and intricately constructed, at once funny and sad and wise, MONA ACTS OUT is a novel about acting and telling the truth; about how we play roles to get through our days; and how the great roles teach us how to live.
MONA ACTS OUT
by Mischa Berlinski
Norton Liveright, Winter 2025
(via Writers House)
Celebrated stage actress Mona Zahid wakes up on Thanksgiving morning to the clamor of a household of guests packed into her Manhattan apartment and to a wave of dread: her in-laws are lurking on the other side of the bedroom door; she’s still fighting with her husband, who has not forgotten what happened last night; and in just a few weeks she is supposed to step into the rehearsal room as Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. It’s the hardest role in theatre—and the first role Mona has ever attempted without her sister, who died just over a year ago, by her side. When her father-in-law starts fighting with her niece about Donald Trump, Mona bounds out the door with the family dog in tow (“I forgot the parsley!”) to find the only person she doesn’t have to act for: her estranged longtime mentor, Milton Katz, who may or may not be dying and who was recently forced out of the legendary theatre company he founded amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Mona’s trek turns into an overnight adventure that brings her face to face with her past, with her creative power and its limitations, and ultimately, with all the people she has loved and still loves.
A brilliant, highly-anticipated return of a writer of almost magical descriptive and imaginative powers.
Mischa Berlinski is the author of Fieldwork, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Peacekeeping. He has written for the New York Review of Books about Haitian politics, has tried to buy a zombie for Men’s Journal, and investigated a woman who married a snake for Harper’s Magazine. His writing has appeared in the Best American Essays and the Best American Travel Writing. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Addison M. Metcalf Award.