Review: Women Talking - Miriam Toews

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“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.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre(s): Fiction, Feminism, Contemporary, Cultural (Fiction)

Reading Challenge: 1 out of 35

Goodreads Synopsis —

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 humour to relate this tale of women claiming their own power to decide.

My Thoughts —

1. Do nothing. 2. Stay and fight. 3. Leave. Which one do they choose?

Wow. Just, wow. I have so many thoughts about this novel. There literally aren’t enough words. Or, maybe, just not the right words, to describe it perfectly.

While this is a fictional novel, it’s definitely important to note that the plot was based on the very real events that happened in Bolivia in the 2000s. What happened to these women - the fictional ones and the real ones - is absolutely horrific and appalling. But their bravery in the aftermath of these events is completely incredible.

It was absolutely shocking to me how strong the women in this story were. Not that I don’t think women are strong enough to deal with tough situations, but that I could not even fathom how I could be able to handle the situation if it were me. The women were terrified, of course, but were concerned more about their families, their children, and their loved ones than themselves. It was also horrifying to me, first of all, how they were conditioned to think that they deserved nothing better than the lives they were living, and second of all, they were faced with the dilemma of staying put in the most horrific conditions possible or leave but have no knowledge of the world outside their community. They were uneducated, unable to fend for themselves, and couldn’t even speak the language of their country. Just the thought of it all makes me shudder.

I can’t even begin to say how deeply this book affected me. I had honestly no idea how hard this book was going to hit me. Although, going off the description, I knew it was going to be a difficult read. I will say that a lot of the content, particularly the descriptions of the rape, is extremely difficult to get through. If you’re somebody who finds it painful to It’s awful to think how some of the women thought they had no choice but to obey the men of their community - the same men who have drugged and raped them and their daughters - because they have no options or even education. My heart ached for them and for the women who went through the real experience years ago.

If you’ve been on the fence about getting this book, here’s your sign: go buy it. It’s well worth the read and will definitely get your mind running. It’s interesting (and scary) to try to put yourself in their shoes while you read. What would you do if it were you in their place?

Felicia x