A transformative and necessary work--as completely unexpected as it is inspired--by the award-winning author of the bestselling 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 forty-eight 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.
MIRIAM TOEWS' most recent novel, the bestselling All My Puny Sorrows, was published in 2014 to wide acclaim. It won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Folio Prize and the Wellcome Book Prize, among other accolades. It also appeared on many year-end best-book lists, nationally and internationally. Toews is the author of five other bestselling novels: Summer of My Amazing Luck, A Boy of Good Breeding, A Complicated Kindness (winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, winner of Canada Reads, and a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize), The Flying Troutmans and Irma Voth, and one work of non-fiction, Swing Low: A Life. In addition to the awards mentioned above, she has also won the Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year, the Writers' Trust Marian Engel/Timothy Findley Award, and Italy's Sinbad Award for Fiction. Miriam Toews lives in Toronto.
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR WOMEN TALKING
“Women Talking is an astonishment, a volcano of a novel with slowly and furiously mounting pressures of anguish and love and rage. No other book I’ve read in the past year has spoken so lucidly about our current moment, and yet none has felt as timeless; the always-wondrous Miriam Toews has written a book as close to a Greek tragedy as a contemporary Western novelist can come.” —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Florida
“Miriam Toews’s Women Talking is a flawless, ferocious work of art . . . [An] illuminating quest to comprehend the most vital contours of the human experience: what is agency, what is meaning, what is justice, what is love. This is the kind of novel that changes you. Get ready.” —Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
“Miriam Toews has written a modern classic . . . real and warm and terrifying . . . It’s a perfect work of art.” —Catherine Lacey, author of The Answers and Nobody is Ever Missing
“I am in awe of this novel. In Toews’s brilliant design, eight women in a Mennonite hayloft tell a story that is terrifying, joyful, gruesome, and magnetic. What a reckoning—and what a gift.”—Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks
PRAISE FOR MIRIAM TOEWS
“Miriam Toews is an extraordinarily gifted writer . . . Graceful phrasing, apt metaphors, deft plotting are so fully and covertly at the service of the imagination that you feel almost as if the story, the characters, have appeared unbidden from your own psyche. You forget that you’re reading . . . You stand in wonder and gratitude that such artistry exists.” —The Globe and Mail
“Miriam Toews is a writer central to our national literature, straddling with ease the often separate worlds of critical acclaim and popular grassroots readership . . . She has a unique ability to generate humour alongside heartache, enlivening life’s dark moments with her quick, offhand wit . . . An indispensable voice, one of the greatest writers this country has ever produced.” —Writers’ Trust Fellowship (jury citation)
“Toews has an exceptional talent for observing life as we live it in our time.” —Scotiabank Giller Prize (jury citation)
“Not since Stephen Leacock have our neighbors to the north given us a writer as witty and wise . . . Toews takes her place alongside Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler.” —Los Angeles Times
“In the crucible of [Toews’] genius, tears and laughter are ground into some magical elixir that seems like the essence of life . . . [She] is working near the emotional territory of Lorrie Moore, where humor is a bulwark against despair.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“[A] brilliant writer . . . I want to call her a Canadian Lorrie Moore, but the truth is that Toews is truly distinct, hilarious even when she’s dealing with the most heartbreaking and bleak of subjects.” —Chloe Schama, New Republic
“With wit, warmth and a firm pinch of absurdity, [Toews] powerfully demonstrates the essential role of humour in rendering the unbearable bearable. Her dialogue is fast-paced, vivid, perceptive and frequently hilarious . . . [She] creates battered, loving, whole and original characters who are never less than fascinating company.” —The Spectator (UK)
“Underneath [Toews’] stunning writing and outrageous humour are insights—wise and profound—that test the boundaries of human rights and stretch the borders of love.” —Naomi Klein