Title: Women Talking by Miriam Toews
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication day: Apr 2, 2019
In a nutshell (Publisher):
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.
Eight Mennonite women from the Molotschna colony gathered to have a secret meeting to decide whether to stay and fight, stay and do nothing, or leave after what had happened. Minutes were taken by the narrator of the story, August Epp, who was the only one they can trust, who can read and write.
The heated and intense conversations (at times, funny) went on for two days. Pros and cons were listed, and many of their arguments are based on their need to be in God’s good graces, whether or not God will approve of their decisions. Ironically whatever they’ve learned of God’s commands were taught by Peter, their bishop, and husbands, because the women were illiterate and weren’t able to read the Bible.
They had been told that if they don’t forgive the men and/accept their apologies, and through the process of excommunication, they won’t enter the gates of heaven. This is true according to the rules of Molotschna.
If that’s isn’t ridiculous enough, my blood got all riled up when I read that a 3-year-old girl, daughter of one of the women, was sexually assaulted on not once, but two to three times! And she was given no medical care, all because their bishop was afraid it will bring unnecessary attention to the colony and everything will be blown out of proportion!
This is such a timely read especially with the Me-too movement and the Kavanaugh case. As much as I liked the arguments and debates then went on between the ladies, I found them a little repetitive. And the numerous characters with difficult names (I had a hard time recalling who is who), and the women trying to take over conversations (changing from one topic to another, and then back) sometimes make it quite a confusing read.
I had a hard time getting into the story and characters and I desperately wanted to, especially when this is based on true events. I guess the writing style the author used to approach the subject matter, just isn’t my cup of tea.
*Quotes included here are from an advanced readers copy and are subject to change upon final publication.
Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest opinion All opinions are my own.
Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you plan to read it?