Miriam Toews’ Women Talking is the intriguing, frank story of a group of Mennonite women discussing their futures in the tight-knit community after learning that several men had been drugging and sexually assaulting them in the night.
Eight of the hundreds of women who have been violated by their male neighbors decide that they must take action and discuss their future in the colony. There are three camps of thought: do nothing, leave, or stay and fight. Ideological and religious discussions ensue as these women try to decide the fate of the colony’s female population.
Women Talking is a fictionalization of what may have happened after this true event in the South American Mennonite community.
Please take caution while reading Women Talking if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Sexual assault
- Child abuse / pedophilia / incest
- Mental illness
- Sexism and misogyny
Women Talking is a deeply thought-provoking novel; one that isn’t afraid to explore religion, obligations, and the possibility of the unknown. The ideological conversations the women have are genuinely interesting and strike a contemplative balance between independence and marital and religious obligations.
I wouldn’t describe this novel as character- or plot-driven. It takes place over two days, largely in the same location. The title of the novel tells you almost everything that happens – it is quite literally a story about women talking. The discussions that take place over the course of those two days can, at times, be very complicated and arduous. The women argue often and spend lengths of time on seemingly minute details or word choices.
Women Talking is a fascinating take on feminism. The women want to escape from under the thumb of these violent and hypocritical men, but they also can’t bear to leave their families – young, potentially corrupted sons included – and are deeply fearful of stepping into the unknown. The women are strong-willed, intelligent, and fiercely tied to religious and marital obligations. These truths make deciding their fates particularly difficult.
I found Women Talking to be very interesting, but also cumbersome. I ultimately enjoyed the novel, but it is quite literally all talk and no action. I wasn’t able to connect with the characters or their circumstances as emotionally as I would have liked for the topic at hand. That said, I absolutely found value in this novel and am glad I read it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on Women Talking. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!