My thanks to Emmanuel Omodeinde of 4th Estate Books, an imprint of Harper Collins for inviting me to join this blog tour for Conjure Women, a debut by Afia Atakora available on 16th April 2020.
The pale-skinned, black-eyed baby is a bad omen. That’s one thing the people on the old plantation are sure of. The other is that Miss Rue – midwife, healer, crafter of curses – will know what to do.
But for once Rue doesn’t know. Times have changed since her mother Miss May Belle held the power to influence the life and death of her fellow slaves. Freedom has come. The master’s Big House lies in ruins. But this new world brings new dangers, and Rue’s old magic may be no match for them.
When sickness sweeps across her tight-knit community, Rue finds herself the focus of suspicion. What secrets does she keep amidst the charred remains of the Big House? Which spells has she conjured to threaten their children? And why is she so wary of the charismatic preacher man who promises to save them all?
Rue understands fear. It has shaped her life and her mother’s before her. And now she knows she must face her fears – and her ghosts – to find a new way forward for herself and her people.
Conjure Women is a story of the lengths we’ll go to save the ones we love, from a stunning new voice in fiction.
Our Author: Afia Atakora
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
My Review: Conjure Women
This stunning book has been a pleasure to read, it has taken me to the dark, deep south, on a plantation under the watchful eye of Masre Charles – the only white master for miles around. His daughter Varina is Rue’s friend, but also her master’s child and therefore Rue’s mistress too. Its the 1860s where the magic ‘hoodoo’ of local women using herbs and ancient wisdom, passed down through generations is believed to heal, curse and create happiness.
Rue is the daughter of Miss May Belle, born into slavery, she has grown up watching her mama treat her local townsfolk, help mothers give birth and create curses, on request for those in distress. All until the civil war comes and slavery is abolished, however, having only known life as it is, a lot of the people just stay doing the same thing, not having anywhere else to go. Despite the terrible conditions some slaves had to endure. Miss May Belle dies and Rue is left alone, to carry on healing. She has self-doubt that her powers are as strong as her Mamas though.
Due to the very nature of the times, the book is set and historical era, its often deeply evocative. Infantile death is featured and belief is that Rue’s magic isn’t working, shes cursed the children or is it Bean a baby born to Sarah and Jonah that has cursed them? Because of this some of the town turn theirs backs on Rue and her Magic, believing instead in Bruh Abel and that his preaching, and baptising will solve more ails that Rue can.
The language used is so that it is deep African and southern adds to the nature of the book and the research that Afia must have done to bring such detail is often amazing. The chapters travel between times of Rue being a child, of what she sees and hears and what her Mama also tries to protect her from. To when shes older and conjures her own potions for the town.
Conjure Women is a superb debut that’s going to set Afia Atakora on the map as a strong contender for further explorations into historical novels.
@afiaAtakora @4thestatebooks #ConjureWomen