“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.” – Amazon
I was drawn to this book because of the cover (yes, I do judge a book by it’s cover!) and the title, since I really enjoy books involving witches, voodoo, and hoodoo. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, although I usually like it when I do, but one of my reading goals this year is to read more historical fiction, so I really wanted to give Conjure Women by Afia Atakora a read. And I am very glad I did since this book is very well written and stayed with me for days after I finished.
Atakora writes very complex characters that show how deeply they are flawed and how full of life and hope they are filled, during a horrendous point in history. May and Rue work helping fellow slaves and the plantation owner’s family through herbs, midwifery, and hoodoo, but they are human and have wants and needs that benefit only them. Miss May Belle wants to shield Rue as much as possible, but in doing so makes Rue’s life harder in ways. And after May is gone, Rue continues on with her mother’s work, but she too has people she is trying to shield from harsh realities and this does not always work out in a good way.
Atakora also takes a look at how village’s wise women have been held in esteem until something can’t be fixed with herbal magic (a plague that starts killing the children) or when a man (in this case, a preacher named Abel) starts making the people question the wise woman via religion or a western approach to medicine. This is something that has been happening for thousands of years and still happens today.
This review doesn’t even cover a tenth of what takes place in the book. I highly recommend you read it and discover the amazing story for yourself.
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