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Women Talking

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  22,641 ratings  ·  3,144 reviews
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 o ...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published August 21st 2018)
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Mel Auffredou For the most part the assaults are not really described. They are mentioned but not in graphic detail. The book concentrates more on the women's conve…moreFor the most part the assaults are not really described. They are mentioned but not in graphic detail. The book concentrates more on the women's conversations with each other which includes philosophy, religion and even humor. I really appreciated that Toews chose to focus on the women's personality rather than graphically describing the assaults.(less)
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Kathie I have a library copy and this edition says on page 100, "In 2009..." so it must have been corrected.…moreI have a library copy and this edition says on page 100, "In 2009..." so it must have been corrected.(less)

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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  22,641 ratings  ·  3,144 reviews

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Emily May
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: feminism, modern-lit, arc, 2019
I have done what the verse from Philippians instructed, which is to think about what is good, what is just, what is pure, and what is excellent. And I have arrived at an answer: pacifism.

I don't understand all the starred reviews for this book.

Perhaps Women Talking works better if you go into it expecting a religiophilosophical analysis, instead of a feminist novelization of a true story. There are some echoes of Plato in here, to be sure. Readers familiar with Socratic discussions will reco
Diane S ☔
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had to stop And think for a little more 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. Quite 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 ra ...more
the fact that this two hundred-page book took me 2 weeks to read is basically a review in and of itself.

I 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 nev
Angela M
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it

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 more 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
Elyse  Walters
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The women in this book have been dealt a hand of crappy cards.
The 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 men)...
So.....while the men are away..., the women will play ( with one man allowed to play too).....
Eight women meet secretly- - ‘barn-style’ group-emerge
Oct 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
I don't know how this book got published.

A 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, everything.

The 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 w
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
"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 assault ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
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 ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
4+ stars

Women 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 critique, but
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1-fiction
In October 2019, I attended a fundraiser for the Brooklyn Library. After a donation, I was invited to their annual event in one of the most beautiful libraries in the area, where I met readers and authors both from Brooklyn and nearby communities. As a gift, I was permitted to choose 1 free book from all the nominees included in their annual awards. I chose Women Talking by Miriam Toews because of the summary shared by the editor when this book was mentioned. I knew nothing about it, but given t ...more
I am glad I read this, because it is based on a true event that I was not aware of. There are several Mennonite societies living in Bolivia. They don't speak Spanish and are not integrated into the larger country. Essentially, they are like little islands unto themselves. Bolivia doesn't get involved even in the crimes members commit, usually. This changed recently.

Between 2005 and 2009, eight men in the group raped hundreds of the women and children there. They used an animal tranquilizer that
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, fiction
"We are not members, . . . we are commodities. . . . When our men have used us up so that we look sixty when we’re thirty and our wombs have literally dropped out of our bodies onto our spotless kitchen floors, finished, they turn to our daughters.”

This book is aptly named. "Women Talking". A more comprehensive title would be "Women Talking and a Man Taking Notes". That's what happens in this book, women talk and a man jots it all down. Sound boring? Well, at times, yes... but mostly it isn
JS is Reading
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't really know how to review this book. I feel like if I try I will start crying - from sadness or rage. I wish we didn't live in a world where we need this book but oh my god how I needed to read this book. It broke my heart and made me feel like I wasn't alone in my anger.

In the last year with so much finally coming to light and so much finally being talked about in more than whispers about rape, sexual harassment, the silencing of women and the gap that still (STILL) exists between men
Ron Charles
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The true crime at the center of Miriam Toews’s novel “Women Talking” is unspeakable.

It sounds like something from the Middle Ages or a dystopia by Margaret Atwood. But, in fact, these horrors took place only a decade ago in the Manitoba Mennonite colony in Bolivia. For several years, more than 100 women and girls woke up in the morning bruised and sore, lying in their own blood. Strictly isolated in this patriarchal religious community, the women were told they must be imagining things or that e
Eric Anderson
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 2011, news broke worldwide about eight men belonging to a Mennonite Colony in Bolivia being convicted of a series of sexual assaults committed over several years. Over 130 girls and women had been knocked unconscious using an animal tranquilizer and raped by these men. The horror of these facts were amplified by the knowledge that these women were part of a tight knit isolated community and they were made to believe the attacks were the result of ghosts or demons punishing them for their sins ...more
Jessica Woodbury
I started this book on faith after hearing so many people deeply loved it. I skipped it initially, the thought of a book about so much trauma was distasteful, it seemed like it would hurt too much. Then when I started it, for the first hour or so I wasn't exactly sure of what it was. It seemed almost absurd at first, a book that is just what its title says: women talking. A group of women in a room having a conversation. It seemed more like a play than a novel at times, and I wondered what the p ...more
Susan's Reviews
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My local library book club chose the very topical book, Miriam Toews' Women Talking to review this week. We had a satisfying, lively and intelligent conversation - touching on all aspects of the plight of these women, and women in the world in general. We all agreed that humanity still needs to progress, but that we, as Canadians, have so much to be thankful for. Don't get me wrong: you will still find glass ceilings, discrimination of every sort, and political despots here (our Ford, U.S.'s Tru ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an intense and thought-provoking read. The novel was inspired by a true story of a group of women in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia who learned they had been drugged and raped by the men in their colony. The men had used an animal anesthetic to knock out the women overnight and make them unconscious. The women would wake up in pain, with bloody and bruised bodies. At first the attacks had been blamed on ghosts and demons, and the women felt they were being punished by God. When the truth ...more
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-favorites
A novel about 8 Mennonite women talking, in a hayloft, with a young man taking notes sounds mundane. But this slim novel hit me hard, to the core of my being. Their matter-of-fact discussion sprinkled with horrifying facts and bits of whimsy was so potent that I had to read it slowly over a week or I would have been paralyzed with grief and anger. That this horror happened, still happens.
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature, feminism
This book might be the perfect book club read for 2019. There is plenty to chew on and discuss within this slender volume. The bulk of the story is one long conversation that takes place over the course of two days - the women of an isolated Mennonite colony have been brutally sexually abused, and now they must decide whether to stay in the only home they have known or leave for the greater unknown world. The core of the story is rooted in the tension often found between religion and liberation, ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I often like to think how far Feminism has come but this book clearly shows we haven’t. Not even close. I’m suffering reading this, imagine how it is for the women in this town! These poor poor women.

Based on factual events this is a fictional account and a very uniquely written book about a town full of Mennonite women somewhere in back town Bolivia discussing their recent spate of rape attacks (by their OWN husbands, sons, fathers!!) and what they should do about it. Under total patriarchal
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Based on a real life event, Miriam Toews writes about how the women of a Mennonite community deal with the uncovering of ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of the men in their own community. Do they stay? Do they forgive?

I love Toews and her novel All My Puny Sorrows was an amazing read - so much between the lines, deceptively simple, heartbreaking about sisters and mental illness. Yet in this scenario with a far more heightened situation I felt less invested in what was happening. Part of it is
This is a daring thing to say, but I think this is Toews' best book to date. Which is saying something!

Review to come.


This is one of the best books I have ever read. Its heart is so big, it covers the surface of the earth.

Toews' contribution to the #metoo moment from inside a Mennonite community in Bolivia (this is a true story) is not only a tribute to the hundreds of women who were terrified and injured in this particular historical event, but also to all the women all over the world w
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: canada, 2019-read
"Women Talking" is based on a true incident: In the Manitoba Mennonite colony in Bolivia, many women and girls have repeatedly been knocked unconscious with a veterinary anesthetic in order to rape them - for several years, they have been gaslighted into thinking that evil spirits were punishing them for their sins, until the truth came out. Toews, wh0 has herself been raised as Mennonite, wanted to write a story honoring these women who were kept illiterate and dependent in a secluded patriarch ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: can-con, 2018
Earnest puts his head on her shoulder and she smooths his wild, white hair. He asks if the women are devils.

No, says Agata, we are your friends.

He asks if the women are plotting to burn down his barn.

No, Ernie, says Agata, there's no plot, we're only women talking.

As author Miriam Toews explains in a brief foreward, Women Talking is based on real events: Between 2005 and 2009, the women and girls in a Bolivian Mennonite colony were waking up in the morning, sore and bleeding, suffering the a
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Back in the mid 2000's there was a small Mennonite outpost in Boliva where the women were waking up in a daze, their bedsheets soiled with blood, dirt and semen. Naturally they were dismissed as crazy, or at the very least guilty of some sort of adulterous behaviour. But the women began talking and soon it was clear it was happening to dozens of others. Demons! A plague from God! What are you going to do?

It wasn't until two men were caught breaking into a neighbours house, armed with a veterinar
WOMEN TALKING is the first book by Miriam Toews that I have read.
The following quote is from the beginning of the book, before the story begins.
"A Note On The Novel
Between 2005 and 2009, in a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia named the Manitoba Colony...many girls and women would wake 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 wer
Amy Imogene Reads
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved the reading experience...but questioned some of the editorial decisions. Why did this story about female pain and agency need a male narrative gaze?

Pacing: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Narrative focus:
Writing: ★★★★

The shocking truth behind this fictional story is this:

From 2005 to 2009 in a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia, girls and women woke drowsy and in pain. They'd been assaulted in their sleep. When they asked for help and guidance from their male religious leaders they were told
Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)
⭐️⭐️💫 rounded down.

This could have - and SHOULD have been - a really great read. The premise was horrifying and fascinating. A deeply religious colony of people living without electricity or any other modern conveniences has been subjecting its women to rape and violence for years. At night, often several times a week, a group of men drug the women and viciously rape them. For years, the women were told the brutality was an act of the Devil and caused by their sins. When the women learned that
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

I first heard about Women Talking from Russell on Ink and Paper blog. It is a story about a group of Mennonite women who come together after they discover that their nightly attacks have been committed by men that they call family and friend. While the other men have gone to bail out the perpetrators, the women have short time to decide their futures. They have three options on the table: to stay and do nothing, to stay and fight or to leave. It is not an easy decision as they live far
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Play Book Tag: Women Talking 5 stars 16 41 Sep 13, 2019 03:28PM  
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Unique form and brilliant use of Parenthesis 1 11 Aug 03, 2019 06:52AM  
Unique form and brilliant use of Parenthesis 1 3 Aug 03, 2019 06:25AM  

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Miriam Toews is a Canadian writer of Mennonite descent. She grew up in Steinbach, Manitoba and has lived in Montreal and London, before settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Toews studied at the University of Manitoba and the University of King's College in Halifax, and has also worked as a freelance newspaper and radio journalist. Her non-fiction book "Swing Low: A Life" was a memoir of her father, a vi

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“No, Ernie, says Agata, there’s no plot, we’re only women talking.” 9 likes
“All we women have are our dreams – so of course we are dreamers.” 9 likes
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