Upon finishing this book, I knew that I needed to read more books by Afia Atakora. A quick search tells me Conjure Women is actually her debut novel? All I can say to that is… wow.
Set just before, during, and after the American Civil War in the antebellum south, this striking novel tells the story of healer and slave Miss May Belle, her daughter and somewhat reluctant protege, Rue, and their master’s daughter, Varina. Rue and Varina are the same age and grow up together amidst the brutality and tragedy of slavery on a southern plantation. Secrets, lies, betrayals, magic, and spiritualism pervade the story of this community of slaves as they become free men and women and their struggles continue.
Atakora’s writing is fantastic and affecting. All of the characters are well-developed and authentic, but Rue especially stole my heart. What a beautifully complex and layered character. She’s very much a product of her life and environment , but she’s alsoindependent, smart and headstrong.
This is definitely not an easy read—as one expects, its dark, heartbreaking, and full of terribleness. It feels realistic, painful, and important, and despite all of the sadness, this book has much to offer of joy and hope. Rue, May Belle, and Varina will stick with me for a long while.
Conjure Women is out in April 2020. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this amazing book. L