Women Talking

Women Talking

by Miriam Toews

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Overview

National Bestseller

“This amazing, sad, shocking, but touching novel, based on a real-life event, could be right out of The Handmaid's Tale.” --Margaret Atwood, on Twitter

"Scorching . . . Women Talking is a wry, freewheeling novel of ideas that touches on the nature of evil, questions of free will, collective responsibility, cultural determinism, and, above all, forgiveness." --New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice

One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.

While the men of the colony are off in the city, attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists and bring them home, these women-all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their community and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in-have very little time to make a choice: Should they stay in the only world they've ever known or should they dare to escape?

Based on real events and told through the “minutes” of the women's all-female symposium, Toews's masterful novel uses wry, politically engaged humor to relate this tale of women claiming their own power to decide.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781635572599
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 04/02/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 3,074
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Miriam Toews is the author of six previous bestselling novels, All My Puny Sorrows, Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of nonfiction, Swing Low: A Life. She is winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction, the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, and the Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award. She lives in Toronto.

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Women Talking 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
clarkphd 9 months ago
I'm going to start by thinking the publisher for the ARC, because I need a minute to collect my thoughts. There is a lot of power in this small book. A fictional account of the aftermath of true events, Women Talking tells the story of a group of women in a Bolivian Mennonite colony, all of whom (along with many, many others) have been sexually abused repeatedly by a group of men in the colony. This abuse went on for at least two years and was originally believed to be the work of ghosts or demons, as the men would knock their victims out with belladonna before raping them. Did I mention this happened to girls as young as 3? Yep, this all really happened. Look up "The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia". Hang on a minute... I need to let my blood pressure go back down. Anyway, the events of the book take place over two days in which a group of the women discuss their options: 1) do nothing, 2) stay and fight, or 3) leave. It's told through the eyes of a man, August, who is taking notes from the meeting, as the women are unable to read or write. This book is pretty much an illustration of why I generally don't do religion. I essentially see all religions - particularly those of Abrahamic influence - as means to maintain power among men and elites. That's not entirely fair to those who adhere to these religions, which serve as sources of comfort and community for many, but let's not hide our heads in the sand and pretend that religion isn't used on the regular to maintain the patriarchy (among other -archies). Mennonite culture is one of the worst offenders. Women are not allowed to learn to read or write, make decisions, or complain. Men make all the decisions, and in the case of this book, the women victims were expected to forgive their rapists and move on as if nothing had happened. Excuse me, what? Ugh. Ok, enough of my rant. Back to the book. It's great. An exploration of faith juxtaposed against free-will and autonomy. There are moments of humor interspersed among the frustration, moments of tenderness against the hard realities. Even while against such a powerful backdrop, Toews manages to create and flesh-out these women in miraculous ways, allowing them identities in a culture that generally demands their comformity. I was prepared to give this book 4 stars, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it deserves 5. It's not a fun, laid-back read. It's written in a format that can be frustrating - can we all agree that quotation marks are important? - but it makes sense from a thematic standpoint. It's a wonderful book that will leave you will all kinds of emotions - anger paramount among them, but also hope that things can change, that women can forge their own paths.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Got increasingly better and great at the end.
Rachel Weeks More than 1 year ago
In a format I've never read before, a meeting minutes-style with everything said written down, including a few thoughts from the man helping them, August, this narration is quite unique and interesting once you are used to it. Don't let it deter you! The piece flows mostly linear with a few backstories, including August's. After finding out women and girls in their colony are being drugged and raped, the women must choose: 1. Do Nothing. 2. Stay and Fight. 3. Leave. These women are illiterate. A few can manage to write their name. They have been oppressed and controlled by the men in their colony for far too long. Some even question if what the men say in the Bible is actually what is written in the Bible. I found myself arguing and debating with them, while discovering bits and pieces of their religion and its influence in their decision. All the while, in the back of my mind, I wanted to scream, cry, and fight for the women in Bolivia that this actually happened to in real life. There's a little prologue about it at the start of the novel. (Seven men were sentenced to 25 years in prison for raping more than 100 women.) What a sick, horrible thing. What will these women decide?
Anonymous 13 days ago
thought utnwas going to endndifferrmtly n.butnutndidnt rwlyy
Anonymous 18 days ago
paces sloow. sad true story glad they got out.
Anonymous 3 months ago
I+was+confused+by+the+names+
Ms-Hurst More than 1 year ago
I was extremely interested in the story behind this book. I found it, unfortunately, more interesting than reading this account. It was a bit confusing at times and I found myself mixing up the characters. On the surface, it seems simple. The men of your community are drugging and raping the women and children. What is there to discuss. It becomes a cultural and religious discussion. I had to get past the fact that it should not be a cultural or religious discussion. These women saw it as a much more complex matter. I tried to see it with them but it was hard to relate to the characters because of the way the story is told. The simple answer is not so simple to them. I did learn a little about their society but it just made me angry that people are still using their most closely held beliefs to hurt and control others.
lostinagoodbook More than 1 year ago
I was excited to start this book. Firstly, because it has been favorably compared to another favorite of mine, The Handmaid’s Tale. (Although, to be frank, what book isn’t being compared to that nowadays, right?) It also has a very nice quote from Margaret Atwood herself, so I felt it important to read this book. It is a fictionalized account based on a real events that occurred in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia a number of years ago. The book is a set of conversations. There is no real action, it is all talk. This screwed with my expectations a little. After that description I was expecting something to … happen I guess. Once I realized the book was going to be confined to this one meeting I tried to adjust my expectations and keep going. Unfortunately, it kept on in the same vein for its entirety. It is mostly philosophical debates among the woman in regards to the choice they need to make about how to deal with this situation and their religious beliefs. Here is where it lost me. I hate philosophy books. I took a class last year in philosophy and it was like torture. So this book did not work for me at all. If you like philosophy, especially about religious doctrine, then this book will appeal to you. I don’t feel like the description did anything to promote the book. I was expecting a completely different book, and I was never able to fully divorce myself from my disappointment at not getting that story told. It’s too bad. I wanted to like this book. It’s just not for me. Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley.
KarenfromDothan More than 1 year ago
This is a work of fiction based on an actual event. It takes place in the Mennonite community in Molotschna Colony. Eight male community members have been charged with repeatedly gassing/drugging female members and brutally raping them while they slept. No female has been spared. Even girls as young as three have been assaulted. According to their beliefs, the women must forgive the men if they are to be allowed into heaven. If they don’t the community says they must leave. The women are meeting to discuss their options. Most of the book takes place over a couple of days. It centers around the dialogue the women are having as they try to reach a consensus and make plans. The women are uneducated, can’t read or write, but that doesn’t mean they’re unintelligent. They present compelling arguments for all sides as they argue back and forth. The story highlights the lack of power that many women have over their own lives. I think it’s an important story and well written, but it didn’t grab me.
MaryND More than 1 year ago
“How would you feel if in your entire lifetime it had never mattered what you thought?” A group of eight women of the Molotschna Mennonite community are gathered secretly in a hayloft, talking through their options. The men in the community are away in the nearest city, posting bail for the eight Molotschna men accused of drugging these and other women and girls (as young as three years old) with an animal tranquilizing spray and then raping and sexually abusing them multiple times over a period of years. Since the women have not been allowed to learn to read or write, they have asked August Epp, a man who had been excommunicated from their group as a child but has now returned to live there as a teacher to the boys, to take the minutes of their conversations, as they struggle with three equally difficult options: do nothing; stay and fight; or leave the community. Women Talking, by Miriam Toews, is August’s account of these discussions—an account which would read as another chilling dystopian tale along the lines of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, were it not for the horrifying fact it is based on a true story. I was intrigued about Women Talking as soon as I read the synopsis, but I should caution readers right now that this book is not in any way a true crime story, nor are the details of the actual attacks, the arrests, trials and subsequent outcomes for the community’s women the focus of the narrative. Despite the subject matter, it is not at all sensational; expecting this title to be a fact-driven page turner is the wrong approach. Rather, this is a quiet but powerful imagining of how women who have never been given a chance to think for themselves and who are completely isolated from the outside world try to decide on the appropriate course of action. Over the course of two days of sometimes heated philosophical and theological discussions, they each emerge as individuals with distinct personalities—something that the men in their community have never allowed them to be. “We are women without a voice,” says Ona, one of the debating women. In Women Talking, Miriam Toews, herself a former member of a Mennonite community, beautifully gives these women the voice they have been denied.