In an isolated Mennonite community called the Molotschna Colony, women and young girls have been raped repeatedly over a two-year period and are told that demons are responsible. Then a woman learns the truth; the men in their colony have been using an animal anesthetic to render the women unconscious, and then they rape them. When Salome discovers her own three-year-old daughter has been raped, she tries to kill the men with a scythe. The colony’s leader sends several men to a jail in a neighboring town for their own safety. When the novel opens, the rest of the men have traveled there to deliver bail. Temporarily alone, the women must decide how to proceed: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. With no exposure to the outside world, their decision-making is rooted in questions of faith, sin, forgiveness, and salvation, as well as the safety and protection of their children. Eminently practical, they push aside their substantial rage so they can make a plan that will upend not only their own lives but also the very foundation, even existence, of the only world they know.
The novel is structured as minutes recorded over two days of the women’s meetings. August Epp, a man who was once excommunicated from the colony, is asked to take the minutes, since none of the women can read or write. Though he struggles with his own existential doubts, Toews wisely keeps the focus primarily on the women’s conversation. The women are forced to question everything they once assumed as truth, and one can almost see them wincing as they emerge from darkness into full sun, seeing their plight–and their souls–clearly for the first time. This is a raw, powerful, and timely story of women seizing control of their own lives with two hands.
|Page Count||240 pages|
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