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Conjure Women

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  11,230 ratings  ·  1,663 reviews

A Stylist Best Book of 2020

You’re free to decide your future. But how do you escape the ghosts of the past?

A stunning debut novel with echoes of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and Sara Collins’ The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The pale-skinned, black-eyed baby is a bad omen. That’s one thing the people on the old plantation are sure of. The other is that Miss R

Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published April 7th 2020 by Fourth Estate
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Afia Atakora Thank you for the lovely note! And you're right, the foxes do symbolize the natural world. Foxes are a common antagonist in African-American folk stor…moreThank you for the lovely note! And you're right, the foxes do symbolize the natural world. Foxes are a common antagonist in African-American folk stories & trickster tales. The smaller, less powerful character, often portrayed by a rabbit, must use its wits to outsmart its master. These folktales sometimes end in the rabbit's triumph, other times in the rabbit being caught up in its own trap. In Conjure Women, Miss May Belle has a similar tenuous control over the foxes, and over her own fate as a slave.(less)
Melanie F The slavery and post-slavery chapters tend to alternate.
The chapter titles tend to give a clue. More clues come from who’s alive in the chapter and ho…more
The slavery and post-slavery chapters tend to alternate.
The chapter titles tend to give a clue. More clues come from who’s alive in the chapter and how old Rue is. Slavery chapters focus on the plantation while Reconstruction chapters focus on the town and the community as a whole.(less)

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  11,230 ratings  ·  1,663 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first five star book of the year and a first novel to boot. Many years back I read a book, The Healing, that made a huge impression and a book I have never forgotten. This is another book that I would place in that class, another never to be forgotten story.

With nary a misstep in plot, tone or character develop, Atakora takes us to a slave holding plantation in the South. The book covers the period before the Civil War and after. What makes this book so special is that I didn't feel like an o
Angela M
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Healing, haints and Hoodoo, slavery, secrets, love and legacies. In this amazing debut, Afia Atakora took me to this plantation, somewhere in the South with a narratives of the time before the Civil War “Slaverytime” and just after, “Freedomtime”. Most of the novel is in alternating chapters focusing on Miss May Belle, a healer, a midwife, a conjurer of curses and in the years after the war, on her daughter, Rue as she reluctantly, but necessarily takes on her mother’s work. It’s not easy to rea ...more
Elyse  Walters
I almost didn’t read this book.
I was ‘sure’ it wasn’t for me.
1.Just a feeling;
2.a low review from a reader I admire;
3.the book cover disturbed me.

I made Paul, my husband, have a conversation with me about the book cover. He said:
“It did exactly what it was suppose to do; it got a fierce reaction out of you”.
I still can get chills from the cover alone....

My turn came up from the library —
I didn’t expect to make it pass a test run. Still on my high horse righteousness.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful debut novel by this author.
The story is about emancipated slaves continuing to live on the plantation they’ve lived on for many years, after its destruction during the Civil War.
It centers most around a healer (conjure woman) Miss May Belle, her daughter Rue, and Varina.. the daughter of the white plantation owner.
The story goes back and forth in time showing how they had to live pre and post civil war times.
Miss May Belle was called upon for healing and the casting of spells and midw
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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CONJURE WOMEN is like if John Steinbeck sat down and wrote about the Black experience during the Civil War. It's just as epic in scope and the author, Afia Atakora, does a really good job showing people at their best and at their worst in the microcosm of plantation life. I was so impressed by the depth and complexity of all the characters, especially the two main characters, Rue and May Belle, who are the healing women on the plantation
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m conjuring up this review. This was a riveting story that takes place in the mid 1800’s on a plantation, taken from the perspective of a slave daughter whose mom is the medicine healer, and now she is expected to follow in those footsteps.
Secrets that keep these women bound and the suspicions the people have of this hoodoo magic.

The story moves back and forth from Rue, the daughter and to the mother, May Belle, and to the white master’s daughter. Truth and lies twisted from one fold into anot
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"As a slave woman [Miss May Belle] made her crafting black folks currency...a white man would come from afar having heard of Miss May Belle's conjure, asking for cure of some affliction set upon his own white wife." May Belle and her daughter Rue lived in a cabin they shared alone "a privilege to be sure". Miss May Belle birthed every baby at Marse Charles [her master's] plantation. Marse asked if May Belle was teaching her daughter Rue "her know ...more
I finished this book yesterday, but I wanted to wait a day before I left a review. I wanted to see if I would continue to think about this book and/or let the book stew and simmer in my mind before I articulated my thoughts about this debut novel, Conjure Women, from Afia Atakora. I am still uncertain about what to say about this book. To be honest, it was not a remarkable read for me. Given the title, I was first intrigued because I figured this book had to do with some “magic”, vodun, healing, ...more

A gripping debut that follows the lives of three women through the years as the Civil Wars looms, as well as the years that follow the war, and the people in this community. Shared through the thoughts and days of Miss May Belle, a conjure woman; her daughter, Rue, who is still a child as this story begins, but who will grow to learn her mother’s skills in both casting spells and delivering babies; and Varina, daughter of Marse Charles, the plantation owner, and who through t
4.5 stars - Afia Atakora is a new voice who writes with all the seasoning of a mature novelist. ‘Conjure Women’ blends vivid imagery with lush prose and in depth characterizations. In a world as complex as the topsy-turvy doll that graces the book cover, nothing is ever simply black and white. Atakora explores gender roles, the roles of slaves and their masters and mistresses, childbirth and death, and none of it is ever simple. She examines the nuances and the ways that lives are blended, melti ...more
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
May Belle and Rue are conjure women and they work as healers in the 19th century American South. That's the one line sentence summary of this book. But it's also a book about the weight of history and the roles we play. May Belle & Rue exist in the pre and post Civil War era, allowing us to see the roots and the aftermath of trauma. It's a novel about the power of Black women (which has folk/quasi magical elements) and the other power white women wield (which is it's own kind of power and maybe ...more
I was very disappointed with the ending of this book. It was interesting enough to keep me hooked but the ending was too ambiguous for me.
Deborah Harkness
Last night I started CONJURE WOMEN by Afia Atakora and it is amazing, an absolutely astonishing first novel. Drop everything. Get on the phone or your computer and BUY THIS BOOK. It's deeply researched and beautifully written. I read nonstop for three hours and only put the book down because I felt utterly suspended by the story and her prose and needed to process. ...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
I enjoyed this story for its Civil War-era (and reconstruction) setting, and its emphasis on mother-daughter relationships. And I confess to being swept away the first 80 or so pages by transporting prose and imagery:

The black baby’s crying wormed and bloomed. It woke Rue by halves from her sleep so that through the first few strains of the sound she could not be sure when or where she was, but soon the feeble cry strengthened, like a desperate knocking at her front door, and she came all the wa
Atakora’s debut novel draws heavily from primary sources: first person accounts, diaries, autobiographies recounted through amanuenses of Black Americans for the period during the Civil War and the years immediately afterward. The setting is a plantation owned/once owned by Charles. But this is really a story about three important women who lived there: Miss May Belle who helped fellow enslaved women with childbirth and more; Rue, her daughter, that followed in her footsteps; and Varina, the dau ...more
May 03, 2020 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
This is a historical fiction with some magical realism. I have tried to read this book several times, but I could not get into it. In the end I DNF this book after trying to reading it and trying the audiobook. I won an arc of this book from a goodreads giveaway, but this review is 100% my honest opinion. (*)
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conjure Women, Afia Atakora’s exquisite debut novel, is one of the most anticipated reads of 2020, and I must say that it didn't disappoint. Set before, during and after the American Civil War the story follows the intertwining lives of three multigenerational women working on a plantation in the Deep South. May Belle is a self-proclaimed healer, midwife and known as the local ’conjure’ woman who the community turns to help with many problems. Rue is her daughter and also a healer and wishes to ...more
DNF - I tried, tried multiple times. Just not connected, not interested, and feel like it's homework now. I was over half way done, but it's time to move on. ...more
I struggled to the 58% point of this book and then gave up reading and skipped to the end. The writing style was bland (not helped at all by the narrator of the audiobook) and I didn’t believe, or understand the purpose of, the Varina story. Maybe I have maxed out on fictionalized slave stories. If you are going to keep poking at a wound you should at least get the satisfaction of having some pain there. I was not moved by anything in this book. I received a free copy of this book from the publi ...more
Laura • lauralovestoread
Conjure Women was such a beautiful story, richly devoted to well written characters in dual timelines based in the South before and after the Civil War. I loved the complexity in the strong women that are in the book. They each had their own struggles of their time, and I admired them each.

*thank you randomhouse for the gifted copy. All opinions are my own
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Conjure Women, a debut novel of historical fiction, is set on a plantation in the American South ‘in slaverytime, wartime, in freedomtime.’ The two main characters are Miss May Belle and her daughter Rue.

Marse Charles has tasked May Belle with keeping his slaves healthy with her knowledge of herbs and midwifery. But her fellow slaves often come to her for a little hoodoo. She passes on her knowledge as best she can to her daughter, but Rue’s stock in trade leans towards lies and secrets, which
“… she showed her magic as mamas do, with their knowing.”

The mother daughter relationship is always a subject rich with possibilities. Add to that what life was like for enslaved people in the time before, during and after the Civil War. Add to that a mother and daughter who practice the healing arts. And what you have is a marvelous, layered, and uniquely fascinating story.

The comparisons of this author with Toni Morrison are valid--truly! This is shockingly Atakora’s debut novel, but she writ
You don’t have to like every book about the horrors of slavery. You don’t have to like every book about the suffering of Blacks. This is true, even if you absolutely abhor both slavery and the injustice that has been directed toward Blacks over the ages.

The book follows a black slave mother and her daughter before, during and after the Civil War. Both come to be midwives. Both are knowledgeable in the art of herbs—their beneficial as well as their harmful properties. They know how to save people
Conjure Women follows two generations of women healers - May Belle and her daughter Rue during and shortly after the Civil War. As a conjure woman May Belle is revered on the plantation. She holds power among the slaves and wields a healthy dose of fear with the slaveholders.

By the time Rue assumes the mantle of healing, the Civil War has passed. Although most of the whites have gone, the slaves live in relative obscurity with the outside world ignorant of their existence. Not knowing the full
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, netgalley
Conjure Women is a richly structured novel, moving between the last years of southern slavery and the risky freedom that followed. Multiple stories play out in alteration, informing each other, as well as functioning on their own. Because I kept wanting the next part of this two-sided puzzle, I found Conjure Women a very difficult book to put down.

Conjure Women does nothing to "whitewash" either slavery or the dangerous years after it, but it also doesn't indulge in gratuitous violence. There is
Leslie Ray
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can easily see this as being one of the best books of the year. A beautifully written story of Rue and her mother, May Belle, who are wise medicine women on a plantation in the south. This is set before, during, and after the Civil War and describes the complex relationships between the plantation owner, his daughter Varina and the slaves, and especially between Varina and Rue. Rue assumes her mother's place as the medicine woman and healer after her death. She is called into question and beco ...more
Carmel Hanes
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 rounded up.

"Miss May Belle had used to turn coin on hoodooing. As a slave woman she'd made her name and her money by crafting curses. More profit to be made in curses than in her work mixing healing tinctures. More praise to be found in revenge than in birthing babies"..." black folks' currency."

These words set the tone for a novel I found a mixed read, but a mostly satisfying one. Alternating time lines allow for hints and slow reveals of life as a slave and as "free" people; o
Conjure Women is featured in my new blog:

Powerful & vivid magical realism in a heartbreaking era of our history, wow!

Conjure Women is a lyrical character-wise debut. Rue is at the center of this story; she’s coming-of-age and learning to be a midwife from her mom, May Belle. They are the Conjure Women on the southern plantation where they are enslaved. Mystical natural elements are revealed in vivid scenes as Rue searches for medicinal plants and mysterio
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
I had the opportunity to meet the author of this book through a Zoom meeting sponsored by my local library. It was fantastic.
This is a powerful debut novel. It is beautifully written and throughly researched.
It is the story of slavery and emancipation. We learn through alternating chapters the lives of three main characters, who remained to live on the plantation for many years during the Civil War.

May Bell is a healer and midwife and has magical qualities. She works on the plantation
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that meanders through time, characters and stories which are rich and gorgeously written. It was easy to get lost in them and enjoy each for what it was communicating and portraying, telling the stories of the same characters both before the Civil War and then after. Then, at some point, you suddenly realize these stories are the pieces of one big puzzle you didn't even realize were clicking right into place. Once you get that, it's a race to get to the end. Really. You can't turn ...more
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Genre Readers loo...: November: Conjure Women 3 14 Nov 15, 2020 12:06PM  
Mary Lib Saleh Eu...: Historical Fiction September 1 4 Oct 29, 2020 08:53AM  
Retro Chapter Chi...: Conjure Women 16 12 Oct 25, 2020 05:32AM  
Play Book Tag: Conjure Women by Afia Atakora 5 stars 1 17 Sep 02, 2020 12:32PM  
Play Book Tag: Conjure Women by Afia Atakora -- 4 stars 6 25 Sep 01, 2020 09:27AM  
Fiction Fanatics: August 2020 - Conjure Women 3 16 Aug 31, 2020 12:51PM  
Play Book Tag: Conjure Women by Afia Atakora - 4 stars- (POLL) 9 26 Aug 31, 2020 12:48PM  

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