This was phenomenal. There were very good advance reviews for this in trade publications and elsewhere, but it was the positive response from two customers I trust that made me invest in this book myself.
'Women Talking' is a novel about a meeting of women of two families in a Mennonite community. These women have been chosen to represent all of the women in their community, as most must continue to deal with the day to day tasks and therefore can't take the time to be a part of the decision. The decision is about what to do in the wake of horrific crimes that had been committed against them.
Recently it had come to light that the women and young children who had woken up bloody and violated had been raped, not by demons punishing their sins, but by men of their own community. They had been drugged and repeatedly raped, for years.
A central tenant of their faith is forgiveness of all transgressions. After the police had been brought in for the personal safety of the accused rapists, one having been attacked by one of the women, an order was given. The men would leave to post bail for the rapists, and when they returned the women would forgive their attackers.
The novel takes the form of the "minutes" of the meeting of these women, written by the semi-outsider August, a man born into the colony but raised outside of it after his parents were excommunicated. His outside perspective allows for context to be put to their discussion, their society, and the women themselves.
The conversation is seemingly simple. The women must decide if they will do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. The conversation ends up getting to the roots self-determination, education, faith, and power.
This novel was inspired by the real 'Ghost Rapes of Bolivia'. The world can be an awful place. Hopefully this book will add to the larger discussions about areas of the world where women still have no voice of their own and what can be done about it.