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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The real-life horror at the heart of Miriam Toews’ searing novel is nearly too painful to believe. Over the course of four years, eight men in a Mennonite colony in remote Bolivia drugged and raped hundreds of women and girls. In Women Talking, a small group of survivors gather in a barn on a summer morning to decide whether to flee the village. Toews brilliantly crafts this discussion—and its faithful transcription by the one man the women let into their midst. Women Talking is a forceful and timely look at power, religion, guilt, and redemption.
After more than 300 women in the Mennonite colony of Molotschna were attacked between 2005 and 2009, eight of the settlement's women, from the Loewen and Friesen families, gather secretly to discuss their plan of action in this powerful novel by Toews (All My Puny Sorrows). They believed that the nightly attacks were by ghosts and demons until a man was caught and named other perpetrators; then the women realized that the victims were drugged and raped by men from their community. The Friesens want to stay and fight the men, and the Loewens want to leave Molotschna altogether; the rest of the women in the colony decide to do nothing and skip the clandestine meetings. Schoolteacher August Epp who takes the minutes of the meetings for the women, since they are illiterate, and is trusted by them because he's been ostracized by the community's men tracks every conversation leading to the women's final decision. Through Epp, Toews has found a way to add lightness and humor to the deeply upsetting and terrifying narrative while weaving in Epp's own distressing backstory. Epp's observations (such as those about how the women physically react or respond when someone shares a divisive suggestion) are astute, and through him readers are able to see how carefully and intentionally the women think through their life-changing decision critically discussing their roles in society, their love for their families and religion, and their hopes and desires for the future. This is an inspiring and unforgettable novel.
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