Friday, May 29, 2020

Women Talking, by Miriam Toews (author), Matthew Edison (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781501998782, April 2019

This story is based on real events in a remote Mennonite community, in which more than a hundred women and girls were drugged and assaulted during the night by what the men of the colony told them were ghosts or demons. Eventually, one of the women succeeds in outsmarting her attacker, and the truth is exposed.

This book is about an imagined response to this, in which eight women, over forty-eight hours, talk about what they can do and will choose to do about what's happened, while the men of the colony are in a nearby town trying to post bail for the men involved in the assaults. It's a challenging listen, but also fascinating.

Because the women are illiterate, they recruit one of the few men they trust, the schoolteacher, August Epp, to write down their discussions to create a record. Epp's own connection to this colony, where he was born, is tenuous and complicated, and the other men give him about as much respect as they give the women.They're right to trust him; his sympathies and respect lie with them, not the other men of the colony.

As the women talk, in several meetings over the forty-eight hours they have to make their decision, we get to know them, the variety of their personalities, interests, and concerns, as well as, slowly, August Epp's own history, interests, and concerns. Our understanding of the women, from teenagers to grandmothers, and of Epp's experiences in and out of the Mennonite colony, and through each of these viewpoints, we begin to get an understanding of the Mennonite colony as a whole, and its relationship to the wider world.

The women's story is a hard one, and Epp's isn't an easy one either, but it is compelling.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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