By Afia Atakora
A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing--and for the conjuring of curses--are at the heart of this dazzling first novel
LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE * NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times * NPR * Parade * Book Riot * PopMatters
"Lush, irresistible . . . It took me into the hearts of women I could otherwise never know. I was transported."--Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling author of White Houses and Away
Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother's footsteps as a midwife; and their master's daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.
Magnificently written, brilliantly researched, richly imagined, Conjure Women moves back and forth in time to tell the haunting story of Rue, Varina, and May Belle, their passions and friendships, and the lengths they will go to save themselves and those they love.
Praise for Conjure Women
"[A] haunting, promising debut . . . Through complex characters and bewitching prose, Atakora offers a stirring portrait of the power conferred between the enslaved women. This powerful tale of moral ambiguity amid inarguable injustice stands with Esi Edugyan's Washington Black."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An engrossing debut . . . Atakora structures a plot with plenty of satisfying twists. Life in the immediate aftermath of slavery is powerfully rendered in this impressive first novel."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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The woods conceal potent herbs, trickster foxes, and chilling secrets in this American Gothic portrayal of the role of folk medicine on American plantations in the antebellum period and immediately following the Civil War. The book follows a medicine woman born into slavery named Rue, whose inherited knowledge of hoodoo opens up opportunities to influence the complex power structure of the plantation, as well as accusations of consorting with the devil. Atakora's mastery of symbolism, complex characters, and a lusciously ominous ambiance make for an unsettling, compelling, and ultimately incredibly satisfying read.
Content Warnings: Physical and psychological violence against Black people, sexual violence, birth, miscarriage, abortion, and addiction.