Afia Atakora's Conjure Women draws the reader into the life of a mother and her daughter in the Civil War South as they're released from slavery and begin grappling with the future, and it does so in intimate and unexpected ways. The whole novel reckons with divides - the slaves who remember being forcibly stolen from their homes, now living with children born into a new freedom; between the black slaves and the white slavers; between Rue and the plantation owner's daughter Varina; between the old voodoo magic of Rue and her mama Ma Doe against the conventional religion introduced by the travelling Bruh Abel. Atakora creates a world that feels painfully and heartrendingly grounded to reality, yet her striking prose weaves the illusion of fantasy and hope throughout her pages - a reflection of the illusion Rue and Ma Doe create for the men, women, and children on the plantation they're irrevocably bound to. Conjure Women is a debut that I loved and is certain to place Atakora's name on the map.— Kira McGrigg
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)
About the Author
Afia Atakora was born in the United Kingdom and raised in New Jersey, where she now lives. She graduated from New York University and has an MFA from Columbia University, where she was the recipient of the De Alba Fellowship. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers.