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Women Talking

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  4,544 ratings  ·  724 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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Kathie I have a library copy and this edition says on page 100, "In 2009..." so it must have been corrected.
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Community Reviews

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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,544 ratings  ·  724 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 recogn
This is, without a single doubt, the most important book I have read all year.

The women have three options they can choose from, but they can choose only one.
1. Do nothing.
2. Stay and fight.
3. Leave.

But perhaps one is enough. Perhaps that one option can open multiple other possibilities. If the women arrive to a conclusion, that is.

Already 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 futu
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
десь на півдні україни, неподалік від хортиці й річки молочної, жили меноніти. у хіх столітті жити там їм стало зовсім непросто, тож вони перебралися в канаду. у канаді, щоправда, стало зрозуміло, що на менонітський спосіб життя – закриті спільноти, відмова від нових технологій, пацифізм – чигає занадто багато спокус, і тоді деякі спільноти перемістились у мексику, а ще пізніше, бо і в мексиці виявилося дуже спокусливо, – на незалюднені терени болівії. отак ми й приходимо до громади, яка в реаль ...more
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
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
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, can-con
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 aft
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
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This book is based on a real-life event, which makes it all the more shocking. Between 2005 and 2009, hundreds of girls and women were raped by eight men from the Mennonite colony they were all part of. The men used an animal anesthetic to knock out their victims and then raped them. At first, the women didn’t know they had been raped but only that they would wake up in the morning feeling exhausted with their bodies bloody and beaten. They were told that ghosts or demons had done it as punishme ...more
This is a daring thing to say, but I think this is Toews' best book to date. Which is says 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 who
Mar 05, 2019 rated it liked it
As a former victim of domestic violence and sexual assault, this book was a rough, but powerful, read for me. The author states that the story is loosely based on truth. Over a period of four years, more than 100 women and children were sexually assaulted in a Mennonite community in Bolivia. The victims were drugged with animal anesthetic and assaulted, waking the next morning bruised, bleeding, and in pain. Victims were led to believe that demons were attacking them because they were sinful. Wh ...more
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This “reaction through fiction” and “act of female imagination” to real-life mass rapes that took place between 2005-2009 in a Mennonite community in Bolivia absolutely blew me away!

I know many readers have questioned the choice of a male-narrator to tell this story, though I think this is actually one of the strengths of the narrative for me. August is a minute taker of the meeting of the women, recording their meetings in the absence of them having the literacy skills to do so themselves. The
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 handfu
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
Beautiful, heartbreaking, powerful, stunning. This book had it all. A heavy read but I enjoyed it immensely and I definitely recommend everyone read it when it comes out on August 21st.
Clif Hostetler
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
#MeToo on steroids! (#ChurchToo as well!) This novel is a reaction through fiction to actual events that happened between 2005 and 2009 in an isolated community of conservative Mennonites located in Bolivia. Mennonite women in the colony reported being raped in their sleep. The victims ranged in age from 3 to 65 and would sometimes wake up naked, their bodies bruised and bloody. At first they were told the attackers must be ghosts or demons, punishing women for their sins. In time, it was discov ...more
Janelle • She Reads with Cats
Thank you so much Bloomsbury for my free copy!

Miriam Toews’ WOMEN TALKING is a unique novel, none like any I have ever read. I was enraptured the entire time reading it and have not stopped thinking of it since. The style is so original as the entire book is a discussion that takes place over two days and the story is based on real events. The novel is quite bleak but the way it is told is remarkable. Toews’ writing is revelatory and exquisite - I literally could not put this book down. The stor
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i am a huge fan of miriam toews' writing. this novel was probably my most anticipated read for 2018. which means my expectations were sky-high, even with my effort to keep it all in check. for now, i am still mulling over my reaction and feelings about the book, but wanted to get something noted here.

there are some very interesting storytelling choices made -- i always feel there is so much to learn from toews' style. the writing is excellent, though i found the large cast of characters a bit a
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Toews, one of my all-time favorite writers, often takes on real-life experiences of her own in her novels, but this time she fictions up a true story about women in a Mennonite colony who were being drugged and abused in the recent past. The limitations of these women's options are especially disturbing in this novel (the women can't read, don't have phones, or cars, or even a map) and Toews reveals these obstacles throughout these pages with well-timed and intense pacing. The novel, in an inter ...more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I unfortunately wanted so much more from this that I ended up quite disappointed by it.

I think the most positive thing that can be said about this book is that it drew my attention (and that of many others) to the horrific, systematic rapes that happened ten years ago in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia. Their stories deserved to be told and their suffering made known.

But the way this book does it felt so strange to me. It's supposed to be the minutes of a meeting in which the women discuss whether
Hannah Fenster
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We are so lucky to have WOMEN TALKING, which offers a window into the intricate details of a women-centered decision-making process in a community that does not have a word for patriarchy. Toew’s brilliant blend of history with thematic relevance reminds us that this setting—which feels so otherworldly—has already come and gone, time and again. With deliberation as the central action, rich, layered meanings emerge, and the women’s milestones are marked by the acquisition of language. To use one ...more
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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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“I don’t know now why I let her believe otherwise, but someday, perhaps, it will be clear.” 1 likes
“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.” 0 likes
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