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Conjure Women

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  5,654 ratings  ·  970 reviews
A dazzling debut novel that sweeps across eras and generations to tell the story of a mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing--and the conjuring of curses.

The intimate bonds and transgressions among people and across racial divides, during both slaverytime and freedomtime, are at the heart of this mesmerizing and surprising first novel.

Like her mother, Rue is
...more
Hardcover, Barnes & Noble Book Club, 410 pages
Published 2020 by Random House
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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)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  5,654 ratings  ·  970 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
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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
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I almost didn’t read this book.
I was ‘sure’ it wasn’t for me.
Why?
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.
I WAS WRONG! I c
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Karen
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
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Jen
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
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Nenia ✨️ Socially Awkward Trash Panda ✨️ 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
...more
Fran
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"As a slave woman [Miss May Belle] made her name...by crafting curse...Hoodoo...is 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 him...by slave...by 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
Cheri
!! NOW AVAILABLE !!

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
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Libby
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
Christina
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
SimitudeSims
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.
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
...more
Kathleen
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
PorshaJo
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.
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
Lou
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
Faith
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
Tina
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. I won an arc of this book from a goodreads giveaway, but this review is 100% my honest opinion. (*)
Sarah-Hope
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
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Leslie Ray
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Kathleen
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
Eric Anderson
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Afia Atakora’s debut novel “Conjure Women” takes place on a Southern plantation and focuses on the life of Rue, a girl born into slavery. She’s the daughter of the community’s much-respected midwife and conjure woman Miss May Belle. Though she passes much of her knowledge to her daughter, changing circumstances mean that Rue’s craft is under suspicion especially when a new born boy with startlingly black eyes is believed to be a curse or haint Rue has brought upon them: “They had been waiting on ...more
Shirleynature
Conjure Women is featured in my new blog:
https://lplks.org/blogs/post/magical-...

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
...more
Chrissie
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
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Michelle
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
...more
Tammy
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: release-2020
ALL THE STARS! A highly entertaining and enjoyable debut I couldn’t put down! Conjure Women tells the story of three southern women before, during and after the Civil War. All three navigate through the politics of slavery, racism, war and the propriety’s of class in the Deep South during that time in history. The undercurrents of voodoo/hoodoo and a belief in haint’s are prevalent throughout giving this a haunted, spooky appeal that made this story come alive for me. From it’s first page I was ...more
Renee (The B-Roll)
This book follows several African slaves, both women and families, and their white owners, in both the antebellum and Civil War-era United States on a specific plantation in the South over several spans of time.  This story is told from a very diverse timeline, as it jumps back and forth between slavery time and war time, but later as the narrative changes the timeline also changes.  We learn about Miss May Belle who is the local healer and witch, along with her daughter Rue.  Both women, throug ...more
Tammy
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ALL THE STARS! A highly entertaining and enjoyable debut I couldn’t put down! Conjure Women tells the story of three southern women before, during and after the Civil War. All three navigate through the politics of slavery, racism, war and the propriety’s of class in the Deep South during that time in history. The undercurrents of voodoo/hoodoo and a belief in haint’s are prevalent throughout giving this a haunted, spooky appeal that made this story come alive for me. From it’s first page I was ...more
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