Women Talking

by Miriam Toews

Hardcover, 2019




Bloomsbury Publishing (2019), Edition: 1st Edition, 240 pages


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Misses_London
I spent time infuriated while reading this because I loathe, loathe, loathe forced gender roles. And patriarchy. So I had to dip my toes slowly and took my time acclimating to the setting. Just like the title says, this is women talking but curiously narrated by some dude. Granted, the narrator
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wasn't the distraction I at first feared he'd be since this story is, after all, meant to be about the women's plight and how they resolve to deal with it. And, God, is it grim. But it's also hopeful and philosophical and beautiful. Toward the end of the book there are a couple of absolutely gorgeous passages that I hoped to paste portions of in my review but won't because the passages were *so* beautiful that I couldn't decide on which bits to exclude!

I'm glad I read it, even if I do feel like I need a punching bag now to vent some anger. I know it probably wasn't the author's intent, but I was secretly hoping about midway through that we'd see a bit of violence after that one bloke unexpectedly appeared. I definitely need to vent.
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LibraryThing member ainjel
I feel like this is such an important little book, of the value of collectivity, of the power in women talking, of the resilience of oppressed groups. Not only is this a story I have never heard before, but it is told through voices that feel familiar. I'm so interested in the fact that a book
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about women talking is told from a male voice-- and even when this is explained in the text and the logical reasoning is given, it still makes me think.

There is so much going on here. I really hope people take the chance to read it because it's something special.
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LibraryThing member gypsysmom
This is a novel but it is what Miriam Toews thinks might have happened in response to real incidents that took place on a Mennonite colony in Bolivia between 2005 and 2009. One review headline called this book a Mennonite #MeToo Novel.

Here in Manitoba we have many Mennonites as it is one of the
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places that promised Mennonites fleeing from persecution in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries land, autonomy and freedom from serving in the military. That is probably why the Mennonite community highlighted in this book was called the Manitoba colony even though it was located in rural Bolivia. This community was far more restrictive than most of the Mennonite communities in Canada. Women were kept illiterate and did not travel beyond the colony's borders. They did not handle money even though their quilt making brought in a significant amount of funds for the colony. Men, which included boys over the age of 13, made all the decisions and women were taught to obey their husbands. So, it was a very repressive society for women. But during the period between 2005 and 2009 women and girls (one as young as 3 years old) were knocked unconscious with a animal sedative and then raped and assaulted. Almost every female was assaulted during this period. The women complained to the community authorities but nothing was actually done until some women set a trap to catch one of the perpetrators. He gave up the names of eight other men and all nine were charged mostly to remove the men from experiencing the wrath of the community's women. When the novel opens the perpetrators are in jail in the city and all the men of the community have gone there to arrange for bail. The head of the community, Bishop Peters, has declared that when they return the men will ask for forgiveness and the women must grant forgiveness so that everyone can enter heaven when they die. Peters has also declared that if the women don't forgive the men then the women will have to leave the community. The book is ostensibly a written record of the discussions the women have to decide whether they will stay and forgive, stay and fight, or leave. Since all of the women are illiterate they have drafted the one man in the community who remained behind, teacher August Epp. The women don't see August as a threat because he is not like all the other men as he can't till a field or castrate a pig. So August sits in on the discussions and records not just the words but also the emotions and background information. Despite being illiterate the women are not stupid and they debate the options with logic and passion and even wit.

This probably is not an accurate portrayal of what happened at the community. In fact, a woman of my acquaintance who was raised as a Mennonite says that there is no way a man would be allowed to sit in on the discussions in a traditional place like the one portrayed. Nevertheless it is a useful vehicle to express what the women must have gone through in their minds and in their conversations. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated very ably by Mathew Edison.
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LibraryThing member out-and-about
Read for #bookriot #readharder #12 memoir from a different religion.

Complicated to review this one. Interesting based on real life story of a patriarchal society where the women are abused and wrestle with their upbringing and their religion on how to handle the situation. Well done in bringing
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out some key points of the Mennonite religion, and some key intricacies of how women are treated under the guise of religion. Toews was raised Mennonite and captures the basic tenets and some possible implications very well. But the women were treated poorly not because of the religion and I hope readers understand that. Any society that inhibits the growth and education of girls and women runs the exact same risks, and deserves all the scrutiny possible in the hopes that we no longer allow these groups to cloister themselves from the public eye.

Style wise, this was a tough read. Lots of repetition, required to get the story set correctly but made it hard to read. I did a lot of skimming. There appears to be a lot of animosity here that the chosen narrator was male but if you read the full novel, it is apparent why that choice was made. It enhanced the plot and allowed the development of a male character in a book that might otherwise been just a male bashing exposition. The narrators pain and character arc were well developed and explained. I appreciate what the extra perspective brought to the story.

Recommended for people who are curious to understand why women stay in untenable positions, but only if they are fully prepared to struggle through their own biases to truly understand.
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LibraryThing member Opinionated
A short novel that would make an excellent play, should anyone care to develop it, given that there are 3 distinct acts, little change of scene and that it is almost entirely dialogue based. A group of women, from three generations, in a remote Mennonite community in Bolivia, have 48 hours to
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discuss what actions they should take to respond to a series of sexual assaults and rapes they have been subject to from the male members of their community, under cover of darkness, drugged by nightshade and told they were the result of visitation from demons. Should they leave, should they stay and fight, or should they do nothing?

In these circumstances, Ms Toews is to be congratulated for finding such unique voices for all of her female characters. One might of thought that given the uniformity of their experience, extremely limited knowledge of the world, illiteracy and general lack of education, the women might be cut from the one cloth. And yet that is very much not the case. Each of the women, from teenager to matriarch, has her own fears, anxieties and hopes, her own thresholds of anger and humour, her own small ways of subverting the system, and her own internal world.

Because of this, although the subject matter of the novel is depressing (especially when the rape of children is concerned), the novel is a joy. The reader roots for the women to succeed, on their own terms, whatever success looks like to them. As such it is highly recommended. Minus half a star for the slightly contrived ending and also for a narrator that doesn't really fit. I realise that it its necessary, in a group of illiterate characters, to insert someone who is literate, but the narrator's presence in the community, and back story, doesn't really work for me.

However that doesn't detract from the power and the joy of the book .
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LibraryThing member arosoff
From 2005-2009, women at the Manitoba Mennonite Colony in Bolivia were drugged and raped routinely at night. Inspired by this story and her own childhood in a Mennonite town in Canada, Toews has imagined her own response to women's oppression in isolated religious communities.

This is a work of
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art, not a work of history or anthropology. Some Mennonites have criticized Toews' portrayal and even as an outsider, I got the sense that she was fusing her own childhood knowledge with her outside knowledge of Bolivian Mennonites. As art, and not as history, Toews also feels free to have the characters express themselves in ways that are not necessarily true to life (arguing about patriarchy and manifestoes).

The novel is structured as the minutes of a meeting of 8 women in the colony, trying to decide whether to stay or to go. The meeting is recorded by a man, as the woman is unable to write. August serves the function of translator--translating the women from Plautdietsch to English--and observer, but also as a filter. Even here, the women's thoughts and voices are recorded as a man perceives them. As someone who has spent time outside the colony, he also functions as a buffer and cultural translator between the women--who have barely seen the world and cannot read a map--and the reader.

The writing is superb--the setup is almost stage-like, with relatively little action, so the quality of the book lives or dies in the delivery. Toews is mordantly funny: "She once explained to me that, as a Molotschnan, she had everything she wanted; all she had to do was convince herself that she wanted very little."

The point here is less the conclusion, and more how they arrive at it. What Toews has imagined here is a situation where the victims have agency. They can speak about what has happened to them, what they believe, how they feel. They can take action, unlike their real life counterparts.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
Read the book or see the movie first? I'm an avid reader, so book first is usually my plan. But I didn't get there in time, and following up on the incredible movie with the equally stunning book is a perfect package. Firstly, to take such a horrendous crime, taking place within a religious
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community the author was once affiliated with, and to swaddle it in such painful beauty and grace is exceptional. Both are seen through the eyes of August, whose parents left the colony with him and moved to London, where he became caught up in a demonstration and jailed. Making his way back after his parents' abandonment and death, he acts as scribe because none of the women are literate and because he's judged a eunuch by the men of the colony, since he doesn't farm and isn't married. He's also in love with Ona, one of the many women, girls, and babies who has been raped while unconscious by some of the men. The movie cannot show all the underlying subplots, one of which is that perhaps the men accused and jailed are not guilty but were accused by the one man who was caught and who were fringe community members like August, and another regarding Bishop Peters, whose character is not in the movie at all. The movie does capture the incredible emotions that tie together the women who are to decide the fate of the colony, all of whom are blood relations. To read the book first could render the reader a bit unsatisfied by all that is not clarified in the book, so in this case, I think that with both available to me, seeing the movie first was the right decision.
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LibraryThing member librarikim
I appreciate this for what it was trying to say, but boy, it was a hard read, and not just because of the content. The writing was tough--it was difficult to stay engaged. But I'm glad I read it.
LibraryThing member oldblack
Oh no! I so much wanted to like this book, after having loved a couple of other works by this author. This novel, however, is not for me. I'm sure it's good writing, and for the right reader it's probably a wonderful meaningful story. But I played the Nancy Pearl card and took it back to the
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library. Maybe I'm just the wrong gender or perhaps haven't been through the sorts of things that women everywhere experience.
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LibraryThing member c.archer
Where to start? This is a unique and tiny time capsule in the life of this group of Mennonite women. They have been trying to make up their minds about some decisions about their lives after months of having been drugged and sexually violated by male members of their patriarchal community. They
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have been dominated all their lives by men-forbidden to go to school or learn to read. They have no say in their community, but plenty to say amongst themselves.
Eight of the women meet over two evenings while the men are away and discuss their options. Should they leave, stay and acquiesce, or stay and fight the men. Their meetings make up the near entirety of the book. The conversations amongst themselves are lively and entertaining, but certainly the reality of disparate women unleashed to discuss a topic candidly. The one variable here is that they aren’t alone. They have enlisted the help of the male schoolteacher to take minutes which they have no ability to read.
I found the topic of this book interesting, yet in reality it didn’t live up to my expectations. The women were victims, yet some seemed willing to accept their role as pawns to the men in the community. They often came off as petty and self-righteous among themselves, and were constantly driven off track by minor irritations and random comments. I was surprised to find that I was more accepting of their indulgences as I read on. It was interesting how much I could get to know and appreciate the characters of these women just through these two evenings. I found myself caring about their choices and outcome by the end of the book after being more than a bit exasperated at the start.
The real wild card in this book was the character of August, the teacher, and his role as secretary for the women and narrator of the story. It is obvious that he has an affinity for one of the women that seems mutual. The other women either find him to be sympathetic or at least tolerable. Several times they ask him for his opinion or allow him to share a comment. Still, he is one of the men, and as such has no part in their decision. The author’s placement of him in this role seems a bit of a paradox.
Interestingly, this story is based on a real event. The author does seem to have a purpose behind her version the story. It made me think and will probably stay with me awhile. If for no other reason, I liked the book and would give it 3.5 stars.
I hesitate to recommend this title to everyone. I think it’s for a select audience of readers who enjoy books that make them look at things in a different way. It might work for certain book clubs, but will probably be a “did not finish” for many readers. I would suggest that anyone who gives it a try commit to persevering through to the end. You won’t find it to be a climactic one, but you won’t get the full flavor of the writing without finishing. It is absolutely not a book for action or thrill oriented readers!
My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this title.
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LibraryThing member hubblegal
This book is based on a real-life event, which makes it all the more shocking. Between 2005 and 2009, hundreds of girls and women were raped by eight men from the Mennonite colony they were all part of. The men used an animal anesthetic to knock out their victims and then raped them. At first, the
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women didn’t know they had been raped but only that they would wake up in the morning feeling exhausted with their bodies bloody and beaten. They were told that ghosts or demons had done it as punishment for their sins or that they were lying or covering up adulterous affairs or that it was all in their imagination. Very young children were included in these rapes, as well as elderly women. Some of the women became pregnant. In 2011, the accused men were convicted. Even after the arrest of these eight men, the attacks still took place.

In Ms. Toews’ book, eight of the raped women meet in a hayloft to discuss what they should do to prevent themselves and their daughters from further harm. Should they stay and fight or should they leave? They had a window of opportunity as the men were off trying to raise money for the accused men’s bail. These women were never told how to read or write and knew nothing about reading a map or where they could go. They were told if they could not forgive these men, they could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So they had a lot to discuss. If a women whose 3-year-old child had been raped couldn’t forgive in her heart, wasn’t it a worse sin to say she forgave the men even if she didn’t mean it? The women in this community were just commodities to these men and had no say in anything. In reading this book, it was hard to believe that this happened in 2005-2009 and wasn’t something occurring centuries ago.

The author does such an excellent job of delving into the hearts and minds of these courageous women. I felt their fear and their heartache and their confusion as to what they should do to make their lives bearable. The suspense builds as the time for the men to return nears. In trying to decide what they should do, they have lengthy discussions about religion and faith. There were times they seemed to forget the urgency of their situation and lectured each other. There’s some humor in this book, despite its dark subject. It’s one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. Don’t expect much of a plot as the book is just what the title says it is – women talking. I think it was quite exceptional and destined to become a feminist classic. Not all readers will like the format of this book but the emotional depth of this story is just astounding.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member mzonderm
A small group of women gather to decide what to do after it is revealed that they, along with most other women and girls in their community, have been repeatedly drugged and raped by the men of their small Mennonite colony. Will they forgive the men, stay and fight, or leave the colony? Their
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discussions range over what it means to have the freedom to choose, whether one can be a pacifist if one harbors a desire a kill, how best to protect one's children, and many more philosophical topics.

It was somewhat jarring that a book that seemed as though it was to be about female empowerment was told from a man's perspective, but it worked. He is privy to the women talking as an amanuensis; none of the women can read or write, but want their deliberations preserved for posterity. He's an outsider in the colony, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, but his outsider status allows the women to trust him for this task, and makes him appropriately sensitive to them, in a way that no other man of their acquaintance could, or would, be.

And perhaps this is a realistic notion of what could happen when such an insulated group of people is threatened in this way. But I found it troubling to read about a group of women facing such a threat to themselves and their children and spending two days sitting in a hayloft debating the finer points of free will, rather than making actual plans. The lack of action in the books gives it a claustrophobic feel, which seems appropriate under the circumstances, and that feeling of clautrophobia helps keep the pressure on throughout the narrative, having the effect of sucking the reader through the story, rather in the manner of a pneumatic tube.

So what will the women decide to do, and will they be able to follow through on that decision? That is what they are talking about, and the question of whether they will be able to sieze their freedom, no matter what they decide, will leave the reader thinking long after the last page.
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LibraryThing member akblanchard
Miriam Toews's novel Women Talking is about just that: over the course of a few days in 2009, eight ultraconservative Mennonite women living in a remote colony in Bolivia talk about what do in the aftermath of a series of brutal rapes that seem to have affected every woman and girl they know. As
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they see it, they have three options: they can stay and forgive their menfolk (the perpetrators), stay and fight them, or leave the colony to protect themselves and their children. The colony's women are illiterate and only speak an old form of German, so they ask an "effeminate" man of the colony to take meeting minutes for them in English, even though they can't read them (this part of the premise I found a little implausible, but without it there wouldn't be a story.

The women talk about the patriarchy that oppresses them. They rightly deduce that the rape is a crime of power, not of sex. The women are concerned with the spiritual implications of the crimes are discussed as well.

For a book without much on-stage action, Toews succeeds in building up genuine suspense. Will the women stay or go?

Despite its brief length, Women Talking is somewhat slow going. Nonetheless, it rewards the time it takes to read it.
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LibraryThing member lilibrarian
A group of men in a small isolated Mennonite community drugged and raped women and girls of all ages. The clan's leader told the women that the devil was visiting them in dreams. Now that they have discovered this to be a lie, they must decide whether to forgive the men and stay in their homes,
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fight, or leave. This book is the minutes of their meetings. Based on a true occurrence.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
The fact that this novel is based on a true story makes me shudder. It takes place in a Bolivian village occupied by a Mennonite community. There have been a series of what are described as "ghost rapes" where women and girls as young as three (!) have been sexually assaulted after being drugged
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while they sleep during the night. After much hesitation by the man at the head of this sect, the police are finally called in to investigate and several men have been arrested.

While all of the men are either under arrest or away at the main city where the men are being held trying to arrange bail, the male school teacher is secretly taking the minutes of the meeting of the women involved as they try to list the pros and cons of leaving or staying. The problems are immense. They are illiterate for the most part and have never set foot outside of their small community. As they discuss their choices it becomes obvious that the patriarchy has left them defenseless and with few options. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
DAYUM! This book was eye opening and painful to read. The writing was wonderful but the subject matter itself was so hard to stomach, even more so because even though this story is fictionalized, it's based off of true events. Between 2005 and 2009 hundreds of Mennonite women and children were
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drugged in their sleep and raped. The small Mennonite colonies thought that demons and ghosts were violating them in their sleep, when they reported it to their husbands and fathers no one believed it at first, when women started taking to each other they realized that it wasn't just them, nearly all women (regardless of age) were being attacked in the night and then waking up violated with blood and semen on their thighs and bed. The rapes continued happening until a woman caught two of the attackers sneaking into her house before they could knock her out with the Belladonna spray. The men were then arrested (for their own safety), but the woman found no solace. They were soon told that in order to get to heaven they had to forgive their attackers and allow them back into the community. Women Talking is a fictionalized account of the women meeting and trying to talk out their feelings and their best plan of action for when the men return. They decide that they have three options: stay and do nothing, stay and fight, or leave . Over the course of two days they discuss the pros and cons of each and in the process reveal their deepest, fears, concerns, and questions of faith. It's heartbreaking, empowering, and a must read. Wonderful, albeit upsetting.
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
In a remote Mennonite community in South America, women, girls and even toddlers are waking up with unexplained injuries and coming down with inexplicable STDs. The leader of the community explains it to them that they were violated by demons as the consequences of their own sin, but it is
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eventually discovered that some of the men are drugging the women and then raping them while they are unconscious. Despite all efforts, the attacks continue until outside authorities are brought in. They arrest the rapists and take them to the city, but the remaining men decide that the best course of action is to go bail the men out and bring them back to the community. During the men's absence, the women come together to discuss what they can do. This is an account of those meetings.

The most terrifying aspect of this novel is that it is based on true events.

Toews presents a group ill-prepared for life outside of the Mennonite community. Unlike men, who receive a very basic education, the women are illiterate and don't even know what lies beyond their own lands. They know that they will be expected to forgive the attackers and struggle with whether this is even possible. This is a thoughtful book, carefully representing a faith community that is little known to outsiders. It's also a very quiet, contained novel, despite the lurid subject matter. In the end, the question the women must collectively decide is whether to stay or to leave, and as they grapple with the possible consequences of both actions, a slow consensus builds.
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LibraryThing member Beth.Clarke
I thoroughly enjoyed Women Talking. The story may not be what readers expect. It starts after the abuse and ends before the readers know exactly what happens to them. It is truly just the period of time when the women are talking. The book is great because of the content and how it makes the reader
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feel and think. One can't help but to think how they would react in this situation - it's unimaginable. The writing is a bit circular, but I didn't find it distracting from the story.
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LibraryThing member booklove2
Based on horrifying true events, Miriam Toews felt compelled to tell this story about these women. After women in a Mennonite colony in Boliva realize they are being attacked at night by the men, with the help of belladonna (and it isn't the devil visiting them to make them pay for their sins) they
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have to decide whether to Do Nothing, Stay and Fight or Leave. The book relates the fictional discussion the women have. The book seems equally split between nine characters: the eight women talking and a man: August Epp, who is taking the minutes of the discussion as the women can not read or write, and because of this is the first person narrator. Having a male narrator in this book was an interesting choice, especially when part of what the women were talking about was that they wanted to have the right to their own thoughts and voices. But August is only the best possible male narrator, as he has been to the outside world is also very sensitive to what is going on, being a very caring man. Another odd choice was having August be in love with one of the women, though he was in love with her at a very young age. Possibly the book might have been a bit more manageable and smooth going with six women talking? Up to the end, the details parceled out are superb -- seemed really nicely planned. I love the detail of the bishop playing games on his cellphone while others work the fields, when none of them are even allowed rubber tires on their buggies because it might enable a faster escape. Based on such darkness, there is a lovely way that Toews observes even the smallest of details, much like Ona, one of the main characters. At one point, the women ask August to write "a list of good things" which is all one can do sometimes in oppressive unbearable situations: appreciate the small, good things. Personally, somehow I had never heard that any of these events happened, so I think Miriam Toews definitely should have written this book: it does give a voice to these women, especially as Toews herself was once in a Mennonite community. However, I think the only people who can truly judge this book, are those that lived the real life version.

**Note: My advance reading copy had some major typos involving dates, which was VERY confusing, and took me out of the book a bit, so that was destined to create a diminished reading experience for me. I wasn't sure where I could check the actual dates in the finished copy, considering the book isn't published in the US until April. I tried contacting marketing but they weren't much help and that was the only e-mail address I had. The detail that was confusing: On the first pages of the book, it is said that the 'minutes' of the meeting are being taken in real time (as 'minutes' usually are) on June 6 and 7 2009. 2009 is mentioned on the early page 'minutes of the women talking'. But on page 99, when this is still supposed to be 2009 (as far as I can tell), August is talking about a newspaper article with a headline "in 2011". So this makes it sound like the minutes aren't being taken in 2009? If anyone can clarify, I'd appreciate it.
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LibraryThing member Lauranthalas
Unpopular opinion - this just wasn‘t for me. Maybe because the “narrator” was male; I wanted more about the female characters; for being so short it seemed redundant.

It‘s horrific to think this is based off real life events and I applaud the author for bringing what happened to light.
LibraryThing member tangledthread
Speculative fiction based on a real case in Bolivia of a sequestered community of Mennonites where a group of men sedated and raped women of all ages in the community. The narrator is a male who returned to the community after being excommunicated with his parents as a child. The community is so
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isolated that they speak their own language based on old German and the women are not allowed to attend school, so they are illiterate and know nothing of the world outside of the confines of their small patriarchal, authoritarian community.

The substance of the book is the discussions by two families of women, three generations from each family, who are discussing what their alternatives are in response to the actions of the men. They are able to meet because Bishop Peters and other men are in town, trying to raise bail for the alleged perpetrators of the rapes. They ended up in civil action because of one of the men was nearly murdered by one of the women victims.

The narrative is so subtle that the horrifying situation that the women are in sinks in slowly with the reader. The all encompassing violence of the men, perpetrated by the absolute power they hold over the community.

One telling quote related by hearsay from Bishop Peters in response to a newspaper clipping about what had happened to the women of the colony: "Dump men in the middle of nowhere, confine them, abuse them, suspend them in limbo, and this is what you get."

I give it 3.5 stars, mostly because there is some inconsistency in the language, vocabulary, and ideas that the women might have had available to them.
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LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
Women Talking is a great novel because Toews takes her characters seriously, their lives, their theology, and their future. It's an affecting story created with further intensity given the time constraints within the narrative itself. I found the narrator to be a bit more plot device than person in
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the end and I don't know that his love or longing added as much to the book as it would've to have kept the focus embedded directly with the women.
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LibraryThing member dianneritz
A story of Mennonite women from Molotschna near the Black Sea, who are abused by their men, sexually, physically, verbally. They plan to leave the colony after their men, who had been arrested for their crimes, were being released to return. Five women talk, and plan their escape - reasons to stay,
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reasons to leave.
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LibraryThing member quondame
The strengths and weaknesses of this are six of one, half-dozen of the other. As 8 illiterate women of 3 generations try to decide to leave the only world they've ever known or stay and fight, as recorded by a man, a necessary outsider to distance passions of participants. Diversions and personal
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infighting seem to overwhelm the purpose of the meeting which is all too real. We have all been in this meeting and all felt like cutting our foot off to escape. But what the women decide and why is there and is important.
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LibraryThing member Romonko
This is a fictionalized account of a real-life occurrence.
"Between 2005 and 2009, in a remote religious Mennonite colony, over a hundred girls and women were knocked unconscious and raped, often repeatedly, by what many thought were ghosts or demons, as a punishment for their sins." As it turned
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out, 8 men from the colony were responsible for these attacks, and they were arrested and sent to prison for their crimes. But some of the girls that attacked were as young as three, and, as can be imagined, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and PTSD were rampant. This book tells us how 8 fictional women meet together in a hayloft, and how they plan to protect themselves and their children by leaving the colony. The book is written as minutes of the meetings that were held in that hayloft. None of the 8 women could read, so they recruited a man to do the recording for them. The book unfolds as August Epp, who is a teacher in the colony, begins to fully understand what these women have been putting up with for many years. It's a story of survival and a story of women taking back their power over their own destinies. It's a difficult book to read, but it's an affirmation of the strength of women and also a testimonial to their determination to do whatever it takes to save their children and grandchildren. Miriam Toews does a masterful job of putting this down in writing, and with her stark prose, and her wonderful grasp of getting to the main issue, this book is a must-read for women today. The "me-too" society has brought all this to the forefront these days, so the book is timely and appropriate.
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