Women Talking

Women Talking

A Novel

eBook - 2018
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A FINALIST FOR THE GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD: A transformative and necessary work—as completely unexpected as it is inspired—by the award-winning author of the bestselling novels All My Puny Sorrows and A Complicated Kindness.
The sun rises on a quiet June morning in 2009. August Epp sits alone in the hayloft of a barn, anxiously bent over his notebook. He writes quickly, aware that his solitude will soon be broken. Eight women—ordinary grandmothers, mothers and teenagers; yet to August, each one extraordinary— will climb the ladder into the loft, and the day's true task will begin. This task will be both simple and subversive: August, like the women, is a traditional Mennonite, and he has been asked to record a secret conversation.
Thus begins Miriam Toews' spellbinding novel. Gradually, as we hear the women's vivid voices console, tease, admonish, regale and debate each other, we piece together the reason for the gathering: they have forty-eight hours to make a life-altering choice on behalf of all the women and children in the colony. And like a vast night sky coming into view behind the bright sparks of their voices, we learn of the devastating events that have led to this moment.
Acerbic, funny, tender, sorrowful and wise, Women Talking is composed of equal parts humane love and deep anger. It is award-winning writer Miriam Toews' most astonishing novel to date, containing within its two short days and hayloft setting an expansive, timeless universe of thinking and feeling about women—and men—in our contemporary world.

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TSCPL_Miranda May 12, 2019

Between 2005 and 2009, hundreds of girls and women were drugged and raped by men in their Mennonite community. At first, they were told that it was their wild female imagination. Then they were told that they were being attacked by the devil. The truth was that the women had been assaulted by their neighbors. The youngest known victim was 3 years old, the oldest 65. Women Talking is just as the title describes, a group of women gathering to talk about what happened and decide what they will do. The women are unable to read or write, so a male teacher from the colony is drafted to write an account of the conversations, to keep a record. Note: the teacher is considered a lesser man, someone not masculine enough to farm. The book reads like a transcript or meeting minutes, recorded faithfully, with occasional interjections from the writer's perspective. Over the course of several days, the women debate three options: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. As they debate the options before them, the women discuss authority, power, Biblical interpretation of women's roles, how to best stay true to the pacifist tenets of their faith, and more. This is not a book that is fast-paced or driven by action, though the talks are conducted under a deadline. This is a conversation with philosophical leanings, driven by a true story almost too horrible to believe.
Women Talking is shocking, difficult, beautiful, and important. I had to read it in small bites and then give myself time to process before reading more, but ultimately it is a triumph, a story of women taking charge of their own destinies, and banding together to envision a better future.

t
therapymutt
Apr 20, 2019

don't rush the read the story is in the conversation. not the ending

m
Miriamrg
Apr 12, 2019

NYTimes recommendation

l
lettheheelingbegin
Apr 11, 2019

My first by this author. An original story idea--gritty-- that’s for sure. I found it a bit slow at first, but engaging by a third of the way through this short book. Based on an actual story of Mennonite women in their rarified traditional colony! The book primarily consists of the women’s discussions about what they should do after several of their men are arrested for their depraved misdeeds. Good writing and a fine ending. I've already put a hold on my next book by Toews.

b
bronteside
Feb 23, 2019

Not my favourite Toews;a little slow -but well written.
A kind of Handmaid’s Tale- a rebellion in a Latin American Gilead.
Sexual assault is ubiquitous- from first world to third world.
And when partnered with the “church” and shaped in the backwoods
It makes the voices of these women alarmingly clear- even in their ambiguity.

2
21221018293347
Feb 21, 2019

Frustrating. The women do too much talking and not enough thinking. I suppose there are still communities in which men rule and women have no voice or personal thoughts. I could not finish this book.

q
Quietday
Dec 19, 2018

3.5 The most difficult aspect about this book for me was not even the events that precipitated the women talking. It's the fact that despite horrendous abuse and injustice, they are on the fence about it.

When you are raised within a strict religious paradigm, you are never taught or granted the freedom to think for yourself. Its it like Orwell's "Animal Farm" where the whole barnyard goes along thinking they have some wonderful plan and yet the pigs are changing all the rules, selfish and corrupt. For example, as these women debate the bible, they realize that since they can't read, they have only followed rules the men told them were biblical and now that they can't trust them, what do they do?

Very thought provoking.

d
dorothy_esau
Nov 19, 2018

I could not put this book down and read it over a two day period, which is the time period of the book. Toews is a gifted writer who draws the reader in to the story. I felt like I was there, with the women and Epp, the young man chosen to document the conversation. This is a beautifully written book with a lot of realistic details and does not need anything else - no action scenes are required. The twist at the end regarding Epp's lineage is perfection.

f
firefly5
Nov 18, 2018

So many people are waiting for this book. I hope they enjoy reading it. I did not like this book, I stopped at the first meeting the women had.

Taken from ms_mustard review. I suggest that you check out this website. Interesting account of these horrific events.
this is an account of the incident from The Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/10/mennonites-rape-bolivia

K_ROK Oct 30, 2018

Unfortunately this one was a DNF at around page 65. I was expecting more action about the events and to read through actual dialogue between the characters when the women are talking, however everything (including other character's dialogue) was being told through one character, and I didn't much care for his additional musings. This book is all telling and almost no showing. It will no doubt resonate with the right reader however I am one that needs to be part of the action and this one just didn't do that for me. I have too many other books to read and couldn't spend any more time with this one. I encourage folks to give it a shot but I know what works for me and what doesn't.

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