Women Talking by Miriam Toews (2018. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-63557-434-0)

This is a book I picked up in Key West, mostly because it was written by Ms. Toews, a Canadian writer of Mennonite heritage I have read before. Her novel, A Complicated Kindness, is very good. In an act of personal kindness (pun intended) she actually took a look at the early stages of my novel, Pigs, a Trial Lawyer’s Story when she was the writer in residence at the Winnipeg Public Library and I was a member of the Manitoba Writers Guild. She made some helpful suggestions, which made the book better, and for that, I have always been grateful. Now to the headline.

No. This is not a masterpiece, nor a feminist manifesto, nor anything close. I admire the author’s attempt to use a new, or at least, fresh for her writing style, approach to telling a story. But while the premise of the story (based upon true events where Mennonite men drugged their wives, sisters, cousins, and children to have sex with them) could have been the basis for a big, bold, blockbuster tale of feminine strength, courage, and perseverance, the structure of Ms. Toew’s storytelling, casting it as reportage from the pen of a male sympathizer and being nearly entirely dialogue-driven, simply failed to grab hold and maintain my interest. This is a slender book, less than 220 pages, the sort of thing I’d hoped to be a fast read. Instead, because of the book’s writing style and the plot composition, I spent the better part of a month struggling to finish the story.

Maybe it’s the fact I’m male. Maybe it’s the fact I have writerly envy. Maybe I am a dullard and don’t appreciate art. Those things may all be true. But all I can say is that this novel did not suit my tastes, did not compel my emotions to rise and fall, and really did very little to interest me in the characters, topic, or religion behind the reality of what happened.

2 stars out of 5. But you be the judge if you wish …



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