April 2019 Indie Next List
“Women Talking is an eloquent exploration of how a group mind coalesces — as a kind of vision that comes in fits and starts, arguments and digression — to finally arrive at a decision. Or, read another way, it’s a compelling examination of the opposing voices in our own heads as we wrestle with impossible choices between the known and the unknown. What’s most compelling about Toews’ novel is its lack of sensationalism and how it shows real people struggling through the aftermath of devastating violence. Grounded in a religious culture where suffering and obedience are an expectation, these women grapple with uneasy answers to what’s best for themselves and their children. Women Talking is the quiet, startling story of coming to terms with how, or if, we save ourselves.”
— Steve Mitchell, Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC
NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2019 BY
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY * ESQUIRE * VULTURE * BUZZFEED * BOSTON GLOBE * AV CLUB’s * NYLON * MEDIUM * THE MILLIONS * HUFFINGTON POST * THE RUMPUS * LIT HUB * PUBLISHERS WEEKLY * THE WEEK * AM New York * USA TODAY * LOS ANGELES TIMES
“This amazing, sad, shocking, but touching novel, based on a real-life event, could be right out of The Handmaid's Tale.” --Margaret Atwood, on Twitter
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.
"An astonishment, a volcano of a novel with slowly and furiously mounting pressures of anguish and love and rage. No other book I've read in the past year has spoken so lucidly about our current moment, and yet none has felt as timeless; the always-wondrous Miriam Toews has written a book as close to a Greek tragedy as a contemporary Western novelist can come." --Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Florida
About the Author
Miriam Toews is the author of six previous bestselling novels, All My Puny Sorrows, Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans, and Irma Voth, and one work of nonfiction, Swing Low: A Life. She is winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Award. She lives in Toronto.
"Miriam Toews is wickedly funny and fearlessly honest… She is an artist of escape; she always finds a way for her characters, trapped by circumstance, to liberate themselves." - The New Yorker
"A feminist manifesto that delicately unwraps the horror, but also bubbles with the love and wry humor that has endeared Toews to her readers . . . Toews’ celebrated novels are haunted by her upbringing, but she has never written with such heartbreak, or taken such sure aim at fundamentalism and its hypocrisies, as she does in her new book, Women Talking. . . Did I mention the book is funny? Wickedly so, with Toews’s brand of seditious wit" - The New York Times
"Astonishing . . . Toews, who has written often about her own Mennonite history, has told a riveting story that is both intensely specific and painfully resonant in the wider world. Women Talking is essential, elemental." - USA Today
"Lean, bristling . . . a remarkably layered and gripping story. . . The book’s confined setting and its tight timeframe combine to superb dramatic effect." - Wall Street Journal
"Scorching . . . Women Talking is a wry, freewheeling novel of ideas that touches on the nature of evil, questions of free will, collective responsibility, cultural determinism, and, above all, forgiveness." - New York Times Book Review, Editors Choice
"A painful, thought-provoking, strangely lovely gem.... At the heart of Women Talking lies the question of how women can create a better world for themselves and for those they love amid a culture of male sexual violence, the continued power of patriarchy, their own differences, and the limits of language itself. It’s a question that resonates across the globe today, and in answering it, we could do much worse than to start with the manifesto of the women of Molotschna: “We want our children to be safe . . . We want to be steadfast in our faith. We want to think." - The Boston Globe
"Astonishing . . . a work of deep moral intelligence, a master class in ethics beautifully dressed as a novel. . . . The intelligence on display in Women Talking is as ferocious as it is warm." - NPR.org
"The award-winning novelist returns with what may be her most experimental work yet, giving voice to eight women as they grapple with the trauma and power of patriarchy." - Entertainment Weekly, “50 Most Anticipated Books of 2019”
"Miriam Toews is the best writer of our time. . . . The novel’s humor is a welcome counter to its brutality, but it’s also a testament to a complex and ever-present pain. Toews has a canny ability to depict pain by stepping to the side . . . This existential lack of sense is where Toews’s true mastery lies. She’s somehow able to communicate the simplest and most complex aspect of being alive: two conflicting things existing at once." - The Cut
"Astonishing . . . Toews interjects a wry humor into these pages, a reflection of her characters and their outlook on life, at once earnest and ironic. . . . You leave a novel about violence and misogyny lifted up by the women and strangely hopeful." - Newsday
"I am in awe of this novel. In Toews's brilliant design, eight women in a Mennonite hayloft manage to lay bare the rancid global root system of patriarchy. Their story is terrifying, joyful, gruesome, and magnetic. What a reckoning--and what a gift." - Leni Zumas, author of RED CLOCKS
"One of the first great novels of the year... In a narrative so sharp it could draw blood, Women Talking asks an immense, weighty question: How do women who have lived their entire lives in a society that severely limits their agency act when suddenly needing to exercise it? In grappling with this question, Toews, who was raised in a Mennonite town in Canada, has written a heated, heartbreaking story at once fundamental and contemporary... The book’s passionate ideology can make it feel like a manifesto being composed in real time, but Women Talking is not a polemic dressed up as fiction. This essential novel is as electrifyingly alive for its masterful storytelling as for its clear, pointed critique of the patriarchy and the insidious nature of power." - The AV Club
"I would follow the Canadian author anywhere she leads — this time to a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia where the women have been subjected to brutal attacks in the night first believed to be the work of demons. When they discover the atrocities were committed by men in their community, the women — who cannot read or write and require the group’s schoolteacher to write down their conversations — must decide whether they will leave, exiting the only world they’ve known, or remain." - Huffington Post, "61 Books We're Looking Forward to Reading in 2019"
"This stark, masterful story takes a timely look at ideas of justice and agency." - Esquire, The Best Books to Read This Spring
"One of the most exciting novels coming out this year." - LitHub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2019"
"Sharp and devastating… a testament to the power of women’s collective voices." - Buzzfeed
"Toews nimbly navigates this complicated story, laden with relevant political overtones, offering a scathing condemnation of the patriarchy, as well as a sense of hope for a future run by those who won’t stay silent about the horrors around them." - Nylon, "50 Books You'll Want to Read in 2019"
"A flawless, ferocious work of art. I have yet to read a more scathing indictment of patriarchal violence, or a more illuminating quest to comprehend the most vital contours of the human experience: what is agency, what is meaning, what is justice, what is love. This is the kind of novel that changes you. Get ready." - Laura van den Berg, author of THE THIRD HOTEL
"Miriam Toews has written a modern classic as real and warm and terrifying as a pail of fresh blood. It's a perfect work of art that will leave you ill with awe." - Catherine Lacey, author of THE ANSWERS and NOBODY IS EVER MISSING
"[A] sharp blade of a novel . . . Toews’ knowing wit and grasp of dire subjects align her with Margaret Atwood, while her novel’s slicing concision and nearly Socratic dialogue has the impact of a courtroom drama or a Greek tragedy." - Booklist, Starred Review
"Powerful . . . This is an inspiring and unforgettable novel." - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture . . . riveting and revelatory . . . Stunningly original and altogether arresting." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Unforgettable." - PureWow
"Women Talking wants another world to be possible, and in the re-scripting of reality into fiction, attempts to imagine it where it has not yet grown of its own volition . . . The novel reminds us how difficult it is to know how to live, forgive others or ourselves, seek justice, or know freedom. No matter the depth of their solidarity, we can imagine that each individual will undoubtedly spend a lifetime coming to their own answers, seeking knowledge with their own hard-won words. But we can hope that the common questions asked by women talking, by Women Talking--their listening, their anger and love, their sometimes vastly differing conclusions--might offer a further way of seeing and finally choosing." - Madeleine Thien, author of DO NOT SAY WE HAVE NOTHING, Literary Review of Canada
"WOMEN TALKING is one of the most anticipated books of the year for a reason. The story (based on true events) focuses on eight Mennonite women who — after being repeatedly drugged and attacked by a group of men in their community — meet in secret and decide how to reclaim their lives not just for their own future, but also for their daughters." - Woman’s Day, Best Fiction Books of 2019