Women Talking by Miriam Toews
“No, Ernie, says Agata, there’s no plot, we’re only women talking.”Miriam Toews
I’m currently working on a novel that features a religious community, so a writer friend of mine recommended I read this book. She told me it was based on the real case of a Mennonite community in which women of all ages were raped in their sleep by some men from the same community who were using an animal anaesthetic to render them unconscious. Their complaints were dismissed by the elders – who went as far as to suggest the women were being attacked by demons – until the truth was revealed.
Toews’ novel focuses on the aftermath of these traumatic events. A group of women meet at a barn to discuss what they are going to do next. The options are to stay and forgive the men, to stay and fight back, or to leave the community. The story is narrated by August, the only man allowed in the barn with these women, who’s taking the minutes of the meeting because none of the women knows how to read or write.