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Women Talking This is without a single doubt the most important book I have read all yearThe women have three options they can choose from but they can choose only one 1 Do nothing2 Stay and fight3 Leave But perhaps one is enough Perhaps that one option can open multiple other possibilities If the women arrive to a conclusion that isAlready from the straight forward title you know 90% of what is happening in this book Women are talking about their situations and trying to imagine a safer future for themselves and their children This is a work of fiction and yet Miriam Toews wrote this book as a reaction to real life events that have happened in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia In this colony women were raped in the night by ‘‘unwelcome visitors’’ believed to be demons sent by the devil himself to punish the women for their sins But the truth came out It was the men who committed these acts Men who raped women teenage girls and even young children The accused men were incarcerated but in this version of the story the Priest and the majority of the other men plan to bail them out without consideration for the women And in a patriarchal society what can women—who have been oppressed all their lives by their fathers their husbands and even their sons and whose thoughts don’t matter—do to stop these violent acts against them and start leading peaceful lives?That is what Greta Agata Mariche Ona Mejal Salome Autje and Neitje—the youngest in the group—are pondering August Epp the man who records these conversations also participates in the discussions at times He is someone the women can trust Everyone has a role to play and everyone’s voice is heard for once Even the youngest ones Autje and Neitje gain confidence and become involved in their own ways despite being reluctant to participate in the beginningI cannot imagine discouraging anyone from reading this incredible story The format is original yes and the themes salient of course but it’s also utterly captivating If you know me even a little you know that I don’t give high ratings to ‘‘important books’’ whose important ideas were poorly developed Otherwise I would have definitely given The Kiss uotient five stars But this this is everything Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google | Bloglovin’ In the loft of a barn the women of a Mennonite community in Bolivia meet to talk about what they should do how they could move forward to protect themselves and their daughters from of the vicious rapes they have endured as they were drugged in the middle of the night I would have found this hard to imagine if not for this opening sentence of a note by the author before the book begins “Between 2005 and 2009 in a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia named the Manitoba Colony after the province in Canada from which the colonists had emigrated in the mid 1900’s hundreds of girls and women would wake up in the morning feeling drowsy and in pain their bodies bruised and bleeding having been attacked in the night The attacks were attributed to ghosts and demons Some members of the community felt the women were being made to suffer by God or Satan as punishment for their sins; many accused the women of lying for attention or to cover up adultery; still others believed everything was the result of wild female imagination” See the links to some news stories I have posted at the end That this novel is based on a true story makes this such a horrific and powerful story as we listen to the women talk to each other about their options and to the only man left at the colony August a teacher who takes minutes for them since these women have never been allowed to read or write The rest of the men have gone to bail out the rapists who were taken into police custody for their safety the safety of the men not the women Meanwhile these women struggle with what to do to keep their daughters safe The discussions are difficult philosophical religious practical and heartbreaking as they recount their experiences Should they do nothing? Should they stay and fight? Should they leave? The middle of the book felt a little slow but then I thought that these discussions seemed realistic; it was not an easy decision to make While this was their story I was moved by August’s connection to them This is one of those books that was so impactful and definitely a powerful telling of the awful things that happened to many of the women in the real sect I woke up thinking about these women wanting to know what happened after the ending Kudos to Miriam Toews for not forgetting these women Thanks as always to Esil and Diane for our monthly read together A terrific discussion I received an advanced copy of this book from Bloomsbury through NetGalley Articles on the events this was based on I had to stop And think for a little than a day on what my rating of this would be had to separate my feelinges so I could judge what Toews has accomplished by writing this book uite frankly this book made me so angry for the women in this Mennonite enclosed colony in Bolivia Between 2005 and 2009 over 100 women and children were drugged and raped by male members of their sect The youngest was three a great part of what made me so angry These women were expected to forgive their rapists and just carry on as if nothing had occurred There is to this but that is all I'm saying about the men Toews from a Mennonite background much like these women decided to give them the voice they probably did not actually have Or maybe they did I don't know that So a group of women get together to decide whether they are going to leave the colony or stay The only man present August trusted has is own back story a very interesting one It is while they talk that we learn of their lives in the colony where they are so little valued that they are not taught to read or write not allowed to express their likes or dislikes completely powerless Another huge source of my anger In a short amount of pages Toews accomplishes much provides insights and shows the remarkable courage of these women uite a revelation and accomplishment both Not a thrill a minute there is some repetition as the women talk through their beliefs their options and how their decisions will be accomplished Yet much is said much is learned Toews is an excellent author and one of my goals this year is to read the books by her that I have not yet read This was Angela esils and mine monthly read We all agreed on this oneThis is a link to an article I found on why Toews wrote this book uite informativehttpswwwtheguardiancombooks201ARC from Netgalley the fact that this two hundred page book took me 2 weeks to read is basically a review in and of itselfI really wanted to like this book which is based on a true story so horrifying and unbelievable and real that it would be ridiculous if it were never fictionalized but I just couldn't for so many little basically me being nitpicky reasons including the writing style and the structure and the fact that all the characters were introduced at once in a very similar fashion so that I could never get a real grasp of who anybody was but mainly for One Big Reason and that reason is this why the hell is a man telling this story?uick TW before we get into the synopsis sexual assault drugging domestic violencethis is about a true event in the Mennonite colony of Manitoba in Bolivia for years women were being knocked unconscious with animal tranuilizers and sexually assaulted during the night this included young childrenthe book follows the Mennonite women's meetings to determine whether they should stay in the colony or leave this should be wrenching and gripping and gruesome and disturbing and it is some of those things sometimesbut the continual distraction and detraction from all of that for me was this THIS STORY IS NARRATED BY A MAN the women of Molotschna the colony are illiterate so this story is constructed as the minutes of a meeting which are written by a man a man who continually interjects his stupid male gaze into the stupid narrative and reduced the whole thing the power of these women's story was interrupted by a man who fancies himself in love with them who must randomly consider his own masculinity who cannot shut the fck up for one fcking second about exposed ankles and uncovered hair and fashionably rolled socksthis is a FICTIONALIZED RETELLING and I just cannot think of a reason why the author would have to make the choice to reduce the women's power over their own story in this waybottom line the fact that a book that is shorter than some of my school notebooks managed to get this far under my skin says it all if this book was any visually reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale it'd be called like The Maidservant's Fablethanks to bloomsbury for the ARC I don't know how this book got publishedA fictitious account of actual events a dark and disturbing subject with a plethora of 4 and 5 star reviews What could go wrong? Well in the case of this book everythingThe entire book is spelled out in the description Eight Mennonite women discover that themselves along with 100 other women and children in their community have been drugged and raped by the community men over the course of two years These eight women gather secretly to discuss what they are going to do now that the truth has come to light They have three choices stay and do nothing stay and fight or leave What follows is that secret conversation as told by the meeting minutes taken by August Epp Although he is a man August is the only person they can trust that can read and writeThe entire book is made up of one conversation or I should say the minutes of one conversation This leaves the style of the story less than savory Long ramblings of what is in my experience not consistent with the usual format when taking minutes August also includes his personal thoughts which is counterintuitive as well as distracting The women have unusual names and all seem to be related in some way or another leaving it nearly impossible to decipher who is who for most of the story The same three choices are pondered over and over with little progress towards a decision until the very end I felt like I read the same conversation 100 timesReligion is prevalent in everything these women discuss as they try to figure out how to save themselves without falling out of God's grace I would dare say that 34 of this story revolves around religion and that alone is enough to turn me off from this book While the real life account of what happened to these women is compelling the author ruined any chance for the reader to connect and become invested in their plight with an unbearable format and lackluster character developmentNow for the positive it is a very short book If I had to choose an audience for this book it would be a Christian women's church book club I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review The women in this book have been dealt a hand of crappy cards AND I MEAN CRAPPYThe women need to talk With only 2 days free until the men in their community return its their intension to bring back the lovely rapists who have been in jail to give them back their RAPING LEADERSHIP cuz they are such nice wholesome decent menHa Sowhile the men are away the women will play with one man allowed to play tooEight women meet secretly ‘barn style’ group emergency chat gathering What the f#k solution can they agree upon that will protect them in the future? A couple of the women are pregnant already greetings daddy? and several daughters were also RAPED The word violated is just not BIG ENOUGH The year was 2011 when the two day ‘talk a thon’ took place The RAPES took place in the years 2005 2006 Over 100 women were RAPED I wonder how many times I need to write the word RAPE before the devastating REALITY syncs into every cell of our HEARING THIS? And what’s the plan to STOP IT? NOTE this might sound trite when talking about RAPE not intended but Geeeeee we each know how hard it is to make changes in our OWN LIVESWe are FAMILIAR with our crappy problems to change them FOR THE BETTER is one of the hardest things a human being does FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT People resist change Change creates upset it’s frightening THINKING about change talking about it is a start but even for THE MOST INDEPENDENT POWERHOUSE women today who believes in civil rights justice their life working has STRUGGLES CHANGINGtheir environment diet and habits etc Yet these 8 women whom have ONLY KNOWN this lifestyle are expected to clap their hands over a solid solution???Good luckThese are RELIGIOUS women Their thought reasoning is specific God their faith is a strong force They haven’t been raised to think freelyThe women couldn’t read or write of course Welcome to their ‘religious ‘ community Wow even in the year 2011 That type of ‘organized religion’ is one I wouldn’t wish for my worse enemy THIS IS NOT the 1600’s Who knew that in the years 2000 illiterate was desired in ANY community religious or otherwiseIt’s Religious brainwash if the women felt ‘not reading’ was being faithful to their God August Ebb was the only man also a part of the 2 day ‘talk a thon’ He was the ‘minutes note taking’ guy The women trusted August to have their best interest at heart HoweverGod forbid the eight women could trust their own voices ‘together’ without the need of a MAN for help Yep fitting It’s the community the Mennonite women knew Men were always granted power than womenSo why would this ‘women’s talking’ gathering be any different See the problem about solution solving? “What if the rapists are released on bail and return to the colony and find that there are no girls and women here and begin to use these boys the 13 and 14 year olds as targets for their attack?One of the females Mejal chimes in “Surely we can’t be afraid of boys this age? Why couldn’t they join us?Ona another woman speaks “August you’re the boys teacher What is your feeling about this? Do your boys at this age pose a threat to our girls and women? August must stop his transcribing in order to properly answer her uestion “I’m simply not capable of containing my happiness and surprise at being asked a uestion by Ona formulating my answer communicating it in Low German and translating it instantly in my mind to English—while almost simultaneously writing in English translation on paper” August’s answer Ha teasing don’t expect me to give you spoilers However his answer ‘is’ in two parts YetNO ANSWER is clear cut and dry when it comes to looking at religious beliefs forgiveness repenting education sinners heaven and hell The women in the community talked talked discussingarguinglaughing at times debated ultimately about how to take their lives back after these horrific RAPESBased on a real life eventDystopian Fiction written in a uniue formatvery visual to imagineMiriam Toews took a god awful terrifying subject made it personal offering readers the possibility for our own added interactive discussionsPerfect book club pick Thank You Bloomsbury Publishing Netgalley and Miriam Toews 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 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 harmWhile 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 escapeBased 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 In 2011 eight men belonging to the Manitoba Mennonite Colony were convicted of a series of sexual assaults committed from 2005 to 2009 Prior to the discovery the rapes had been attributed to a ghost or demon The victims were reported to be between the ages of 3 and 65 The offenders used a type of gas used by veterinarians to sedate animals during medical procedures Despite long custodial sentences for the convicted men an investigation in 2013 reported continuing cases of similar assaults WikipediaWomen Talking is based on the above mentioned rapes The women in this book are contemplating their choices on how to deal with assaults 1 Do Nothing 2 Stay and Fight 3 LeaveThe Women secretly gather to discuss their choices and how to proceed As none of them can read or write they ask a man August to take notes for them As they share their feelings thoughts emotions he writes them while also sharing bits of information himself to them Naturally the women are angry some are now pregnant as a result of the rapes and some have daughters who have been attacked as well Not only are they talking about what happened to them they are talking about their religion their faith and the men in their community who are going to bail these men out This is a very relevant book and it is frightening to think that this book is written about what really happened to a group of Mennonite Women Attacks that happened in the night while the women were drugged They wake up bruised bleeding sore missing clothing etc There is a short book which mainly takes places as the women sit and talk As I mentioned they talk about their faith the role of forgiveness what to do with anger etc I appreciated how they talked together and voiced their thoughts on their choices Although they may disagree at times and even feel anger they work things out and keep discussing their choices as they have a small window of time in which to decideSo why three stars? Which by the way means I thought the book was good and I enjoyed it in case you were wondering At times I felt the book dragged a little and I wanted to skim Perhaps in the way this story was told hindered my enjoyment a little I think this book could have been told without the August's character I think he was added to share some info and to show how Ona was showing him kindness by asking him to help But for me personally parts of his backstory got in the way I wanted the entire book to be about the women and what happened to them I encourage anyone interested in this book to pick it up and decide for yourself Do you need to know some information about Mennonites to enjoy this book? I don't think so but it may help give some readers a general understanding on their history their close knit communities and their faith Overall a good book that addresses horrific assaults and how women of faith came together to talk and make a decision togetherI received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review The thoughts and opinions in this review are my own 4 starsWomen Talking is not perfect but it is very powerful and well worth reading Miriam Toews announces at the beginning that the book is based on true events in Bolivia where a number of Mennonite women were raped and abused by a group of men in their community Women Talking imagines a two day conversation amongst the women as they decide whether to stay or leave their community The book is very short but there is so much to the narrative that it defies easy description or critiue but here is a list of thoughts and reactions in no particular order The story is narrated by August who sits in on the women’s conversation for the purpose of taking minutes because none of the women is able to read or write August infuses much of his own history and his own thoughts into the narrative His point of view and personality add a lot to the texture of the story The women’s conversation is varied in the way real women interact – they move seamlessly between painful recollections philosophical debates religious scripture bickering teasing and tenderness Through their conversation we get a glimpse into the unusual and vulnerable lives these women have led – it’s hard to imagine living without knowing how to read without knowing anything about the world beyond your small community and feeling that your community will not protect you from this type of aggression It’s hard not to feel claustrophobic The end is beautiful I would have loved to know what happens to these women after they make their decision At times I found it hard to keep track of the different women although Ona who was August’s childhood friend is a real standout Despite the difficult topic there were a few delightful touches of humour At times especially in the middle the narrative felt repetitive Mind you many conversations involving a group of people trying to make a decision are repetitiveThe bottom line is that despite its flaws Women Talking is well worth reading It is rich and potent I am especially grateful to have read this one as a buddy read with Angela and Diane This book almost reads like a science fiction novel like some distant cousin of A Handmaid's Tale until you remember it is based on a true story A sect of Mennonites live in a distant part of Bolivia speaking their own language and rarely in contact with the outside world When it's discovered that the women of the community were being drugged and raped by 8 of the men the men are arrested and sent to prison in the city While the rest of the men are away securing the release of the rapists eight of the women meet to determine whether to fight or leave the community The women are illiterate but desire to have minutes taken of their meeting So August the school teacher and only remaining man in the colony is tasked with keeping their minutesThe title is apt because about the only thing that happens during this book is talking It gets very bogged down pretty uickly as the women go back and forth arguing their limited options The arguments tend to be circular as women change their positions repeatedly I found it hard to relate to them as real people and it took me ages to be able to keep them straight in my headHere's how you know you're really not enjoying a book when you find yourself repeatedly looking at your TBR ueue wanting desperately to get to your next book There were some passages that moved me but not enough to draw me into the book I felt this book was all about unrealized potentialMy thanks to netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for an advance copy of this book

  • Hardcover
  • 216 pages
  • Women Talking
  • Miriam Toews
  • 11 August 2016
  • 9781635572582

About the Author: Miriam Toews

wwwopenlettersnet and were profiled on the radio show This American Life in an episode about missing parentsIn 2007 she made her screen debut in the Mexican film Luz silenciosa directed by Carlos Reygadas which screened at the Cannes Film FestivalIn Sept 2008 Knopf Canada published her novel The Flying Troutmans about a 28 year old woman from Manitoba who takes her 15 year old nephew and 11 year old niece on a road trip to California after their mentally ill mother has been hospitalizedThe book Irma Voth was released in April 2011 Her latest book All My Puny Sorrows was published in April 2014For information see