Cover Image: Women Talking

Women Talking

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Member Reviews

This story had a strange and interesting voice. It was a very difficult read, not necessarily because of the voice, but because of the challenging content and descriptions of rape and abuse.
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Toews places the reader right in the middle of the action, beginning the book as the Mennonite women realize what's been done to them. Compact, compelling, and keeping the reader racketing back and forth between characters using taught dialogue, readers will have a hard time putting this one down.
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2.5 stars.  Although this is a work of fiction, knowing that the events in the book were based on real life events, made it very heartbreaking.  I did find it very confusing distinguishing between the women.  They weren't written in such a way that they had their own distinct characteristics.
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I think this is actually quite a compelling story, but I just didn't find myself connecting to it at all. The writing was bland and couldn't grab my attention enough to continue to the end, though I am very curious how it all tied up!
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Although marketed as a feminist retelling of actual events, this book is more philosophical in nature. Basically, women of a Mennonite community are sexually assaulted during the middle of the night by men in their community. The blame is then put on the women, blaming they were assaulted by demons due to their sinful behavior. The women come together to determine whether they should: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. During this meeting, a man named August (the narrator) is taking the minutes although the women can’t read or write (for reasons unknown until the end of the book). They come to their decision after analyzing scripture they’ve been told by the men, questioning if they can even trust what they’ve learned. Overall, this was a very quick read, not only due to the book being a little over 200 pages, but because of the writing style. Once I got used to the dialogue without any quotation marks, I zoomed through it, wanting to know what happens next!
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I honestly couldn't get into this one. I am a big fan of tropes like the one in WOMEN TALKING, but the plot seemed to drag on and ultimately, I had to DNF it.
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I wanted to love this one, I loved the idea of the synopsis and setting in the Mennonite community. But I found the story to really drag, this was my first from Toews and I don't think it was the right time for me to try her books. I'm a mood reader and really struggled with this one until I decided to DNF at 25%
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Somewhere between 3-3.5

So much promise here - Toews presents a fictional retelling of the rape of over 100 Mennonite girls and women in a remote community in Bolivia - yet it doesn't quite live up to what it perhaps could have been. I think the choice to use a male narrator was an error, but I kind of get why it was chosen (as most if not all of the women in this community are unable to read or write). I will say that I've never read anything quite like this - the book is literally just a handful of the women from this community talking to each other and planning how to deal with the aftermath of discovering what has happened to them - and it was a unique and (mostly) engaging insight into a culture previous unknown to me, and worth reading for that alone.
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This was a really fascinating book. I struggled to follow the plot at times, but conceptually, it made me interested in reading more about Menonite culture. It was an interesting, artistic look at how power is expressed in society.
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A book that reads like a play - the format is perfect for a reader to bear witness to the atrocities faced by these women.  I was frustrated by the use of narrator as the character's backstory felt like a flimsy plot device but (and this might be a spoiler so don't finish reading this sentence...) it does resolve in a thoughtful and reasonable way.  The only part of the book that I didn't end up enjoying was the unrequited love story - it just didn't feel necessary and it's woven through in random spurts that almost feel like an afterthought.  But the female characters are colorful and real and their frank discussions in all of their gut wrenching ignorance is brilliant.  I look forward to reading more from Miriam Toews.
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DNF — I’ve heard a lot of hype about this book but I could not get into it. Something about the narration took me away from the story, and bored me to tears. I was really invested in what happened, but the writing style was so dry and slow that I kept putting the book down. After starting this four times in as many months, I’m going to have to admit it is not for me.
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I didn't know quite what to expect with this one but I was pleasantly surprised. The structure is abnormal and one that not everyone will enjoy but I loved it. I could see this book being taught in a writing class, just because of how it shouldn't work but it does. It's hard to say what type of person would enjoy this book. I've heard some found it frustrating. I think one would have to not have many preconceptions and be down for the ride.
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Eight angry women who have three choices after they were brutally attacked and raped. They were made to believe they were crazy, or it was the devil’s work, but it was the men in their own Mennonite community that did this. Now, they must deliberate to decide their options. They cannot read or write,  but a young man, Augustus, takes minutes for them. They have three options drawn on the way for they cannot read: stay, fight, leave.

The conversation becomes a microcosm of the world at large. Their daily oppressions and responsibilities will sound strikingly familiar. In the end, they only have one real choice.
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This book is based on something that happened, a true thing. The author fictionalized the response, well a little more than that was fictionalize, such as the size of the settlement. Yet knowing the basis of this story was fact made the book a harrowing read. 

What was odd for me was why have an outsider tell the story? And why was the outsider a man? 

The framing of the book had a male teacher, who was once excommunicated from the colony with his parents, write down the minutes of the women's meeting. He writes more than that, he write about himself. Sometimes it is acknowledged and other times it feels like the author forgot the frame of the story. A few parts of the story could not have been written down, yet we still have this in the book.

The women were portrayed, as almost simple. I think the author struggled with this aspect, their intelligence there, they are not stupid women, yet there were not allowed to be taught about the outside world, not reading and writing, not even the local language. This dichotomy comes across oddly, and it's hard to discern if it's due to the situation or the author struggling to find the right balance.

It's a short book and a quick read. There isn't much action of any in the book, it is as the title says, women talking, trying to decide how to proceed now they know their men drugged them and raped them, even the girl children. Should they stay and fight despite being pacifists, or should they leave, venture out into the unknown. There is a third option, to stay and do nothing, but for the women who believed in that option did not go to the barn to discuss what's next.

Often I found myself in disbelief how women continue to be abused, again and again in the name of religion. I loved that one of their topics was to be free; to be free from the patriarchy, to think for themselves.
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A powerful read based on horrific true events. This book is a literary tour de force. Recommended for adult book clubs, as well as young adults.
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The meeting notes writing style of this book was a little hard to get into and the story was heavy. Despite my difficulties getting into this story and I am so glad I stuck with it. I can't stop thinking about it and I am recommending it to everyone I know so that I have people to discuss it with. Well worth the beginning struggle to read.
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What I Liked

The main reason I wanted to read this book was because it was based upon real events. I enjoy reading non-ficiton and historical fiction and I felt like this book would be enjoyable. This book tackles dark events dealing with an established religious group and how the women must either come to terms with the status quo or make changes. As you can see from the description the status quo is not something I think many of us would want to endure.

I really enjoyed that the author did put this struggle into words and I feel like it could be applied to many other situations. While this story very dark and very extreme in its content, if you are triggered by rape or the discussion of it please do not read it boils down to women in a very bad situation determining if it is worth living with the devil you know, or chancing it with the devil you don't know in a world you don't understand. In other words,  you can either endure traumatic treatment and stay with what you know and fear, or go off and try to get away for your hope of a safe situation in a world you have no idea how to navigate. On top of that the fear of what might happen if you are not successful. Obviously, every situation is different and each needs to be thought of on its own merits, but I can appreciate that this author was willing to have a discussion about this.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn't like how slow paced this book was. I kind of had to push myself through it. I am not sure if this is because I was expecting a lot to happen based upon the description, but I felt that for the size of the book it was a slow mover. At times I felt it was rambling and I would grow bored.

Overall Thoughts

I feel like this was a good topic to discuss and should continue to be discussed. The topic was interesting for sure. I just don't know if the topic was enough for me to fully enjoy this book. For me personally I do not enjoy slow moving books that are more talk than action. So, I feel like if you enjoy that type of writing style, you would easily like this book more than I did.
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Good books have a feeling, a mood that's set each time you sit down to read them. That's what this book did for me. It's told simply, without a lot of frills, but manages to be engaging from beginning to end.
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I so desperately wanted to love this book. The premise sounded fascinating and unique, and about an important issue, especially in the me too era. However, it just wasn't for me. The male narrator felt off for a story about marginalized women. I also found it to be not well paced, particularly considering it's a short book. But just because it wasn't for me, doesn't mean it might not be for you.
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Important, Painful, Needed.

I felt so many emotions while reading this: anger, fear, sadness. But it also made me realize how strong women are. When faced with an almost impossible situation, women will somehow find the strength to power through and go on. When faced with a horrific, abusive situation, these women met secretly to decide what to do. They supported each other and they did not falter. Bravery. Intelligence. Compassion. 
I loved the plot of this book. I love women. #MeToo
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