Women Talking (Hardcover)

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I am overwhelmed by this fictionalized account of real events in a Mennonite Community in Bolivia. Between 2005 and 2009 a group of at least eight men from the community were using a plant-based anesthetic spray (used for livestock) to sedate and sexually assault the women (ages 3-65) of the Manitoba colony. Unwilling to believe the stories of these women, rumors spread through the community that they were plagued by demons until the truth was revealed. To save the attackers from a mob of the victims' family members the men were placed in a nearby Bolivian jail.
Miriam takes this opportunity to tell the story of these women and what their options were. Keeping in mind that the women were raised to be submissive, by demanding justice they are, in their minds, going against God. In her fictional account, Miriam follows a group of about 15 women who are gathering in secret in a hayloft to discuss their three options as they see them:
1.  Forgive and remain in the colony as if nothing has happened.
2.  Demand justice and fight back against the men, ultimately resulting in exile from their community.
3.  Leave the colony and take all children under 15.
The story is told from the perspective of August, a formerly exiled member who has returned home and is the only man who the women can trust who can read and write. August is charged with taking the minutes, and you will find this short book is mostly just what the title suggests, the women talking. The discussions are profound, philosophical, devastating and inspiring. Women Talking is important not only to shine a light on this story, on the sexual assaults that continue to happen in Bolivia, but also it is important because it breaks down the results of this violence in its purest form. How do these women see themselves now? How are they perceived by others? How does this impact their faith?
Are they willing to go against everything they have ever been told and leave their homes, not able to read or write, not knowing where they are in the world or how to read a map, their only language Plautdietsch, or a form of low German spoken by few outside the Mennonite communities and seek a life where they may be safe from the men as well as safe from killing the men themselves? This book is essential for your 2019 reading lists.
To learn more about this community check out this great article from Vice.

— From Chelsea

April 2019 Indie Next List

Women Talking is an eloquent exploration of how a group mind coalesces — as a kind of vision that comes in fits and starts, arguments and digression — to finally arrive at a decision. Or, read another way, it’s a compelling examination of the opposing voices in our own heads as we wrestle with impossible choices between the known and the unknown. What’s most compelling about Toews’ novel is its lack of sensationalism and how it shows real people struggling through the aftermath of devastating violence. Grounded in a religious culture where suffering and obedience are an expectation, these women grapple with uneasy answers to what’s best for themselves and their children. Women Talking is the quiet, startling story of coming to terms with how, or if, we save ourselves.”
— Steve Mitchell, Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC


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.



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.

Praise For…

"Miriam Toews is wickedly funny and fearlessly honest… She is an artist of escape; she always finds a way for her characters, trapped by circumstance, to liberate themselves." - The New Yorker

"A feminist manifesto that delicately unwraps the horror, but also bubbles with the love and wry humor that has endeared Toews to her readers . . . Toews’ celebrated novels are haunted by her upbringing, but she has never written with such heartbreak, or taken such sure aim at fundamentalism and its hypocrisies, as she does in her new book, Women Talking. . . Did I mention the book is funny? Wickedly so, with Toews’s brand of seditious wit" - The New York Times

"Astonishing . . . Toews, who has written often about her own Mennonite history, has told a riveting story that is both intensely specific and painfully resonant in the wider world. Women Talking is essential, elemental." - USA Today

"Lean, bristling . . . a remarkably layered and gripping story. . . The book’s confined setting and its tight timeframe combine to superb dramatic effect." - Wall Street Journal

"Astonishing . . . a work of deep moral intelligence, a master class in ethics beautifully dressed as a novel. . . . The intelligence on display in Women Talking is as ferocious as it is warm." - NPR.org

"The award-winning novelist returns with what may be her most experimental work yet, giving voice to eight women as they grapple with the trauma and power of patriarchy." - Entertainment Weekly, “50 Most Anticipated Books of 2019”

"An astonishment, a volcano of a novel with slowly and furiously mounting pressures of anguish and love and rage. No other book I've read in the past year has spoken so lucidly about our current moment, and yet none has felt as timeless; the always-wondrous Miriam Toews has written a book as close to a Greek tragedy as a contemporary Western novelist can come." - Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Florida

"Astonishing . . . Toews interjects a wry humor into these pages, a reflection of her characters and their outlook on life, at once earnest and ironic. . . . You leave a novel about violence and misogyny lifted up by the women and strangely hopeful." - Newsday

"One of the first great novels of the year... In a narrative so sharp it could draw blood, Women Talking asks an immense, weighty question: How do women who have lived their entire lives in a society that severely limits their agency act when suddenly needing to exercise it? In grappling with this question, Toews, who was raised in a Mennonite town in Canada, has written a heated, heartbreaking story at once fundamental and contemporary... The book’s passionate ideology can make it feel like a manifesto being composed in real time, but Women Talking is not a polemic dressed up as fiction. This essential novel is as electrifyingly alive for its masterful storytelling as for its clear, pointed critique of the patriarchy and the insidious nature of power." - The AV Club

"Sharp and devastating… a testament to the power of women’s collective voices." - Buzzfeed

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781635572582
ISBN-10: 1635572584
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019
Pages: 240
Language: English

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