51 pages 1 hour read

Miriam Toews

Women Talking

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Part 1Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “June 6: August Epp, Before the Meeting”

Part 1 Summary

The first section of the novel is preceded by three drawings and August Epp’s introduction of the minutes, naming the place, dates, himself as scribe, and a list of the women present: Greta Loewen, two of her daughters (Mejal and Mariche, the oldest), and Mariche’s daughter (Autje), as well as Agata Friesen, two of her daughters (Ona, the eldest, and Salome), and Salome’s niece (Neitje). The drawings illustrate the three options the women have in dealing with the rapes and abuse: “1. Do Nothing”; “2. Stay and Fight”; “3. Leave” (6).

August introduces himself and his place—“irrelevant”—in the events he is recording and explains why he is taking the notes: “[T]he women are illiterate and unable to do it themselves” (1). Last night, Ona asked him to keep a record of the women’s meetings while they were standing on the path between their two houses; August, a schoolteacher, has been back in the colony for seven months, and he agreed to the request because it was Ona who asked him. She also told him a story about a squirrel and a rabbit alternately charging at each other when there was no one else around to see—“playing,” she thought.

August explains that Agata and Greta organized the meetings following a spate of attacks.