Saturday, April 25, 2020

Review: Women Talking by Miriam Toews (Dewey's Readathon)

Title: Women Talking
Author: Miriam Toews
Year Published: 2019


Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 240
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map): Bolivia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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?

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.


Review: My high school girlfriends and I decided to read a book together and do a zoom discussion. Luckily, we're all busy so we gave ourselves plenty of time to read the book. I hadn't heard of this book before, but was looking forward to reading it! In 2019 it was named best book of the year by The New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, Library Journal, and many more.

So, given all that information, I am disappointed in this book for me. I know one of my other friends really enjoyed it and it has been compared to The Handmaid's Tale, but I felt like I had to force myself to read it. I will say I liked the second half much better than the first half.

What didn't work for me? It's the style of writing. I liked the characters, though we don't get to know them in depth, and the concept of women in a cloistered community rising up against the men who have wronged the, but there was just something about the writing in the first half that didn't work for me. Perhaps too theoretical, too much pondering. I am an action sort of person in my life and am not someone who sits around thinking about philosophy and life. 

I did liked the role of the note taker, August. He almost becomes one of the women, so great is their trust in him. He is not seen as one of the men since he is from their community, but also from the outside.

I eventually got really into the decisions the women were making: they are illiterate and no nothing of the world beyond their small community, so how will they escape? Who will they take with them? Will God forgive them? Will the men come after them? These are the questions that women all over the world ask themselves when considering running from their abusers and that plays out well in this book.

Challenges for which this counts: 
This book counts for the Popsugar challenge because the book has main characters in their 20s.

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