The latest from the bestselling Canadian author features eight women living in an isolated Mennonite colony in Bolivia, where they and other women and girls have been violated in the night for two years by what the men in the colony say are demons. But when they discover their violators are actually those same men, they must decide whether to leave the only home they've ever known and enter the unfamiliar world outside.
It must have taken guts to write this novel, which could have been exploitative but, instead, proves thoughtful and light on its feet. Rather than dwell on the crimes, Toews wrings unexpected drama from her protagonists’ moral and theological to-ing and fro-ing, as they spar over how best to remain faithful to a system that has been used to betray them so brutally. The improbable, almost magical result creates something redemptive from a subject that seems anything but.
While wrestling with faith and forgiveness, love, compassion and innocence, the women show formidable forbearance, but Toews doesn’t mask pain with perseverance. The trauma here is real ... The weight and authority carried by language and speech lies at the heart of this novel. There’s power in being able to name something for what it really is ... [The women's] experience holds a mirror up to sexual abuse survivors the world over, punished for going public or naming their attackers. Although not born from the #MeToo movement, this beautiful battle cry of a novel is in urgent conversation with the contemporary moment.
The women’s analysis of what has happened to them, their treatment, their own futures and their children’s, and above all how to absorb these events into their own sense of faith, fills most of the book’s pages, and might seem at times dry. But its territory is so horrific, so stark, so outrageous and contemporary that it magnetizes the reader. Toew’s sensitivity, lucidity, lyricism and wit ensure it ... Synthesizing complex and ancient arguments which also have bang-up-to-the-minute relevance, the book offers a crisp, immersive vision of oppression and survival. Read it as a manifesto for clear female thinking. And for a moving, positive view of the way forward.