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Women Talking

Written by: Miriam Toews
Narrated by: Matthew Edison
Length: 5 hrs and 57 mins
4 out of 5 stars (165 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 42.11
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Publisher's Summary

A finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award

A transformative and necessary work - as completely unexpected as it is inspired - by the award-winning author of the best-selling novels All My Puny Sorrows and A Complicated Kindness.

The sun rises on a quiet June morning in 2009. August Epp sits alone in the hayloft of a barn, anxiously bent over his notebook. He writes quickly, aware that his solitude will soon be broken. Eight women - ordinary grandmothers, mothers, and teenagers; yet to August, each one extraordinary - will climb the ladder into the loft, and the day's true task will begin. This task will be both simple and subversive: August, like the women, is a traditional Mennonite, and he has been asked to record a secret conversation. 

Thus begins Miriam Toews' spellbinding novel. Gradually, as we hear the women's vivid voices console, tease, admonish, regale, and debate each other, we piece together the reason for the gathering: they have 48 hours to make a life-altering choice on behalf of all the women and children in the colony. And like a vast night sky coming into view behind the bright sparks of their voices, we learn of the devastating events that have led to this moment. 

Acerbic, funny, tender, sorrowful, and wise, Women Talking is composed of equal parts humane love and deep anger. It is award-winning writer Miriam Toews' most astonishing novel to date, containing within its two short days and hayloft setting an expansive, timeless universe of thinking and feeling about women - and men - in our contemporary world.

©2018 Miriam Toews (P)2018 Knopf Canada

What the critics say

  • Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

“An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture.... Stunningly original and altogether arresting.” (Kirkus Review, starred review)

“[A] sharp blade of a novel.... Toews’s eviscerating fictionalization of this incendiary reality focuses not on the violence but, rather, on the keen, subversive intelligence of the Mennonite women, their philosophical casts of mind, clashing personalities, and deep concerns about family and faith." (Booklist, starred review)  

“Compelling.... Women Talking is no ordinary book, and even before hitting the shelves it’s got people talking. Some who received advance copies, including Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, have placed it firmly in the camp of feminist books that will become part of a canon that questions the patriarchy.” (Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Man reads "Women Talking"??!! - worst decision!

Couldn't even get into this audio book since it's written as a first person account of a woman sharing women talking about women being abused. I couldn't get into it as a man's voice read it to me. Ughhh who made such a terrible decision? Had to shut it off it was so annoying. I want a refund!

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Painful subject, frustrating to listen to..

This is based on a true story about a large group of mennonite women who drugged and raped. The are told by the men the community that they must forgive the rapists and have to make a decision in 48 hours to stay and forgive, or leave. There is a lot of philosophical discussion between an oppressed group of women in a patriarchal religion. The narrator in the story is a man , and I find this makes it very irritating to listen to.
I read for relaxation and enjoyment so this is not a book for me and had to stop listening after 2 hours.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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preferred a different ending

liked it
needed an ending where men return and women get settled
would have been nice to see him go with women

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Quintessential Canadian Literature

Enjoyable but not overly satisfying with dry humour, takes forever to get to the point (if there is one), no climax, and it just ends abruptly without providing any sort of resolution. Basically everything one wants and expects from Canadian Literature.

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An important read

Interesting and compassionate look at the intracacies and intimacies of a women's rising in a patriarchal Mennonite community. A humane fictional exploration based on true events of the decisions a group of women in a closed community face when threatened and traumatized by men within their community. It is a horrible and tragic predicament imagined with careful detail and considerate character developement. The narrator is well suited to the story with his gentle tone and cadence. An important read.

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A wry retelling ...

A wry retelling of horrific events, giving voice to those who were voiceless in a way that sidesteps sentimentality and confronts darkness with light and adept humor. Enjoyable listen.

I do wonder, is it intentional that the women's voices and minutes are relayed by a man? And does this small redemtion, on behalf of mennonite men, transmit another message of hope?

An important addition to modern feminist literature.

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Gripping, moving and haunting.

I confess I was confused by this narrative style in the beginning. Not knowing anything about the book in advance, I wondered if it was fiction, or a true transcript of a pivotal event. It is a testament to the book’s authenticity that I had to research it to know for sure that it was fiction.

With the balance and finesse of Stephen King, Toews tells this true-crime horror story with humour and empathy. And, by only obliquely referring to the graphic details of that horror, she lets us feel the full weight of it in our own imaginations. As in the best horror stories, Toews hides the monster off-screen, forcing us to build its true fearsomeness in our own minds.

This book makes us feel the depth of the women’s pain, by having them barely speak it. Our love for them grows organically – gradually –alongside the measured exposure of the narrator’s own tender feelings.

This book will stay with me for my lifetime, and will appeal to anyone who has compassion for their fellow man.

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Slow but appropriately so

Great listen. The narrator was fantastic. The humour, humanity, and respect he conveyed with Toews words was illustrative. I grew up near a Mennnite community and know some Menonites so I felt what was reflected in the book was realistic and insightful.

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Deliver Us From Evil

Thank you Ms Toews for this brave, fierce, tender, compassionate, insightful, timely book. Such a difficult story to tell. Such a clever yet humane structure to the novel. Such an excellent ear for dialogue. Brava. I hope Women Talking wins every award available. You deserve it.

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  • JB
  • 2018-09-18

Toews does it again

Having read Toews’ “A Complicated Kindness” and come out the other side heavy with emotion and haunted, I was excited to undertake this topic with Toews - a former Mennonite. At first I thought the books narrator/narrative would bother me, but I quickly became spellbound because of Toews’ gift for language and designing characters. I would highly recommend this book to others and would suggest giving it your full attention so you can dig more deeply into the story she weaves and topics she tackles. #Audible1

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • melanie l morton
  • 2018-10-19

short and interesting

I loved how short this story was and that it spanned over just a couple of days. Enjoyable story that gives you a glimpse into a different culture.