Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Conjure Women

by Afia Atakora

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora X
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2020, 416 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2021, 416 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Debbie Morrison
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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.

FREEDOMTIME
1867

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 way awake, and knew that she was needed, again.

She unwound herself from her thin linen sheet. If there were dreams, she'd lost them now that she'd stood up. There was only the crying, not so loud as it was strange, unsettling. She smoothed her nightmare hair and made ready her face. Stepped out from her cabin, barefooted.

At the center of the town, between the gathering of low cabins that sat close and humble, Rue could make out the collection of folks, like herself, who'd been drawn from their sleep by the haunting cry. Anxious, bedraggled, they emerged to suppose at that unearthly sound. It was a moonless night, the clouds colluding to block out the stars, and the crowd knitted itself ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Conjure Women is a novel rooted as much in its place as its people. It is steeped in natural imagery, linking (in ways as complicated as the history of black people in the Americas) those enslaved, and later dispossessed people, to the places they inhabit. These spaces are treacherous, barren and haunted, yet they are also restorative and transformational. These dichotomies are one of the hallmarks of the book, creating a kind of undulating suspense and release, hope and loss, elation and melancholy that ultimately reaffirms what the characters in the novel have always known: despite their magic, this life and this work could never have a fairy tale ending...continued

Full Review (863 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Debbie Morrison).

Media Reviews

BookPage (starred review)
Atakora paces her novel beautifully, slowly unwinding the plot in unexpected ways as she examines a relatively unexplored aspect of American history.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Mother-child relationships, especially, are at the center of the book. Using frequent flashbacks to 'slaverytime' and 'wartime' and occasional jumps to the future, Atakora structures a plot with plenty of satisfying twists...Life in the immediate aftermath of slavery is powerfully rendered in this impressive first novel.

Library Journal (starred review)
Atakora effectively handles the before-during-and-after structure, enriching her story. If its center is the vibrant Rue, the entire community finally feels like the main character. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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.

Author Blurb Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling author of White Houses
This novel, written in lush, irresistible, and poetic prose, took me into the lives of people in another time and place—into their loves, nightmares, dreams, their unexpected ties—and into the hearts of women I could otherwise never know. I was transported.

Author Blurb Caleb Johnson, author of Treeborne
In Conjure Women, Afia Atakora masterfully centers two generations of women, folk healers who carry the secrets of their community while bearing the brunt of its antebellum past and its reconstructed present. Telling a gripping story at once grand and intimate, Atakora renders humanity in all its beautiful fits and flaws. Page after page, her voice announces itself like a thunderclap. The women in this novel will blessedly stick with you long after the last word has been read.

Author Blurb Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls
Afia Atakora brings the Civil War South to life so beautifully with Conjure Women, a heartbreaking joy to read.

Reader Reviews

lani

Slavery, women and hoodoo
Voodoo.Hoodoo.Healing.The Civil War.Mother/child love.Midwifery.Slavery.These are an intricate part of Atakora's debut novel so intimately expressed with breathtaking intensity. The time period is before and after the devastation of the Civil War ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Flying African in the Americas

The People Who Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton book coverThe story of the flying African is as old as the history of Africans in the Americas. Thus, it is no surprise that this trope finds its way into Afia Atakora's debut novel, Conjure Women.

The basic notion behind the folktale lies in a secret power, a secret magic known to a select few. This power allows a person to grow wings, or in some cases to transform into a bird. Typically, it was those Africans who still had direct memory of their homeland who could call up this power or initiate it in others in order to facilitate an escape from slavery. Those who had been to Africa and could still remember it could reach it in flight.

As it has its origins in oral history, it's no coincidence that the notion of the Flying African has had ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Conjure Women, try these:

  • A Snake Falls to Earth jacket

    A Snake Falls to Earth

    by Darcie Little Badger

    Published 2024

    About this book

    More by this author

    Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She's always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.

  • Blood Like Magic jacket

    Blood Like Magic

    by Liselle Sambury

    Published 2022

    About this book

    A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family's magic. The problem is, she's never been in love - she'll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.

We have 8 read-alikes for Conjure Women, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Sicilian Inheritance
    The Sicilian Inheritance
    by Jo Piazza
    Sara Marsala is going through a rough patch, to say the least. In the process of divorcing from her ...
  • Book Jacket: The Light Eaters
    The Light Eaters
    by Zoë Schlanger
    The human race is completely dependent on plants. Many people, however, give little thought to ...
  • Book Jacket: Joy Is the Justice We Give Ourselves
    Joy Is the Justice We Give Ourselves
    by J Drew Lanham
    As a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" Grant, and a Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master ...
  • Book Jacket: Glorious Exploits
    Glorious Exploits
    by Ferdia Lennon
    Lampo and Gelon are two unemployed potters in their thirties whose lives are spent between their ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
The Familiar
by Leigh Bardugo
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo comes a spellbinding novel set in the Spanish Golden Age.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    This Strange Eventful History
    by Claire Messud

    An immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history.

  • Book Jacket

    The Stolen Child
    by Ann Hood

    An unlikely duo ventures through France and Italy to solve the mystery of a child’s fate.

Win This Book
Win Only the Brave

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

A powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

F T a T

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.