MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Summary and book reviews of Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Women Talking

by Miriam Toews

Women Talking by Miriam Toews X
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 3, 2020, 240 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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?

My name is August Epp—irrelevant for all purposes, other than that I’ve been appointed the minute-taker for the women’s meetings because the women are illiterate and unable to do it themselves. And as these are the minutes, and I the minute-taker (and as I am a schoolteacher and daily instruct my students to do the same), I feel my name should be included at the top of the page together with the date. Ona Friesen, also of the Molotschna Colony, is the woman who asked me if I’d take the minutes—although she didn’t use the word “minutes” but rather asked if I would record the meetings and create a document pertaining to them.

We had this conversation last evening, standing on the dirt path between her house and the shed where I’ve been lodged since returning to the colony seven months ago. (A temporary arrangement, according to Peters, the bishop of Molotschna. “Temporary” could mean any length of time because Peters ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Women Talking begins with "A Note on the Novel" which explains that the story is a fictionalized account of real events. What is the difference between reading this novel versus reading a news story or nonfiction book about these events? What questions doesWomen Talking encourage readers to ask themselves about these events and the environment in which they occur?
  2. The book is told through August Epp's notes from the women's meetings. Why does Toews choose Epp to narrate this story? How does his perspective, gender, and personal history affect the vantage from which the story is told?
  3. The women frequently discuss the complexity of continuing to love many of the men in their community despite their fear and they contemplate the ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The conversation among the women is riveting, philosophical, and even occasionally funny, as they consistently argue with one another like siblings (which some of them are.) It is profoundly deep and often emotionally meaningful. Despite the odd setting, the women are relatable, particularly from a feminist perspective; what woman hasn't felt like her humanity is in question at some point or another, or been asked to forgive something inexcusable so as not to rock the boat? Dramatic specifics aside, these are universal issues and Toews' considers them with depth and remarkable clarity...continued

Full Review Members Only (699 words).

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Powerful ... This is an inspiring and unforgettable novel.

Booklist
Starred Review. [A] sharp blade of a novel ... Toews' knowing wit and grasp of dire subjects align her with Margaret Atwood, while her novel's slicing concision and nearly Socratic dialogue has the impact of a courtroom drama or a Greek tragedy.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture ... riveting and revelatory ... Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

Literary Review of Canada
Women Talking wants another world to be possible, and in the re-scripting of reality into fiction, attempts to imagine it where it has not yet grown of its own volition ... The novel reminds us how difficult it is to know how to live, forgive others or ourselves, seek justice, or know freedom. No matter the depth of their solidarity, we can imagine that each individual will undoubtedly spend a lifetime coming to their own answers, seeking knowledge with their own hard-won words. But we can hope that the common questions asked by women talking, by Women Talking - their listening, their anger and love, their sometimes vastly differing conclusions - might offer a further way of seeing and finally choosing.

Author Blurb Margaret Atwood, on Twitter
This amazing, sad, shocking, but touching novel, based on a real-life event, could be right out of The Handmaid's Tale.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Patriarchy in the Mennonite Community

Miriam Toews' novel Women Talking is inspired by events that took place in Manitoba Colony, a Mennonite community in eastern Bolivia with a population of about 2,000. From 2005-2009, hundreds of girls and women were drugged and raped during the night, which religious leadership claimed was the work of God or the devil, punishing them for their sins. In reality, a group of eight men from the community were using an anesthetic made for cattle on the women and attacking them while they were unconscious, night after night, often assaulting multiple women in a single home before moving on. In 2011, these eight men, ranging from ages 20 to 48 were convicted of sexual assault; seven of them were sentenced to 25 years, and the eighth, deemed an ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Miriam Toews

If you liked Women Talking, try these:

  • His Favorites jacket

    His Favorites

    by Kate Walbert

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    From the highly acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award finalist and author of A Short History of Women, a searing and timely novel about a teenaged girl, a charismatic teacher, and a dark, open secret.

  • Southernmost jacket

    Southernmost

    by Silas House

    Published 2019

    About this book

    In this stunning novel about judgment, courage, heartbreak, and change, author Silas House wrestles with the limits of belief and the infinite ways to love.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: In the Dream House
    In the Dream House
    by Carmen Maria Machado
    In the introduction to In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado (a National Book Award finalist for ...
  • Book Jacket: Father of Lions
    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan
    Our readers have given high marks to Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan. Out of 21 reviewers, 18 ...
  • Book Jacket
    Girl, Woman, Other
    by Bernardine Evaristo
    As we meet Amma, a 50-something playwright finally experiencing mainstream success in Bernardine ...
  • Book Jacket: The Revisioners
    The Revisioners
    by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
    The chapters of Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's second novel, The Revisioners, alternate between three ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Lost Man
by Jane Harper

"Strong characters, riveting plot and an honest look at life in the Australian outback make it easy to give this 5-stars!"
—BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan

    A true-to-life narrative of one man's remarkable quest to save the Mosul Zoo.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    You Were There Too
    by Colleen Oakley

    Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Adventurer's Son

Publishing Soon!
The Adventurer's Son

"A brave and marvelous book. A page-turner that will rip your heart out."
--Jon Krakauer

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I I A Broke, D F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.