Winner of the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Fiction
Shortlisted for the Reading Women Award
"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.
Named a Best Book of the Year By
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Notable Books of the Year) * NPR.ORG* THE WASHINGTON POST * REAL SIMPLE * THE NEW YORK TIMES (PARUL SEHGAL'S TOP BOOKS OF THE YEAR) * SLATE * STAR TRIBUNE (MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL) * LITHUB * AUSTIN CHRONICLE * GOOP* ELECTRIC LITERATURE * KIRKUS REVIEWS * JEZEBEL* BUSTLE * PUBLISHERS WEEKLY * TIME* LIBRARY JOURNAL * THE AV CLUB * MASHABLE * VOX *
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I think this book requires more contemplation than I’m willing to give. It was hard to stay engaged with the storyline and the many allegories used to describe the female condition. I’ll try to read it again in the future.