To fully appreciate this book I recommend the reader first see this movie
. The author played the role of the mother of the family in this movie. It is obvious that she has used her experience acting in this movie as the setting in which to place the first half of the story of this book. But this is a novel so there's no reason to consider this story anything other than Toews' imagination. (I have the DVD of the movie that I'm willing to loan out.)
The beginning of the book is set in a rural conservative Mennonite community in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. A filming crew has moved into the area to make a movie. The first person narrator of the story, Irma Voth, is a young woman from the Mennonite community who gets a job with the crew to translate between the director's Spanish and the Low German (Plattdüütsch) spoken by the lead actress. Relations between the outside crew and the local inhabitants is strained. One thing leads to another and Irma Voth feels compelled to move with two of her sisters to Mexico City in order to protect them from an abusive father.
The second half of the book tells the story of their living in the big city. This leads to the revealing of a big secret which I had no idea was coming. I was blown away by the ending. It leaves the reader with something to ponder. Is forgiveness possible? Should it be?