Set in the South both before and after the Civil War, this debut novel introduces readers to three women: a wise healing woman named Miss May Belle, her daughter Rue, 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.
... a vivid exploration of the bondage and power of women ... From the start, Conjure Women adroitly unpacks the nuances of interbellum society, the influence of spirituality, and the power of superstition. Yet it is Atakora's reiteration of the current calls for racial justice that positions Conjure Women as an unadulterated masterpiece ... The Civil War does not represent a singular stage for pre- and post-war society. Rather, Atakora uses the Civil War to exhibit time's fluidity between a historical and contemporary moment ... Similarly, the discourses constructing women's control of their bodies and sexualities are another accurate reflection of modern discourses ... Conjure Women's depiction of slavery's atrocities is painfully authentic. More so, Atakora intentionally emphasizes the daily acts of violence to reveal the fullest extent of the abuse ... Readers will easily transfer Conjure Women's focus on the commodification of birth into the present and see how the trajectory disproportionately affects women of color ... testifies to the oppressive control prevalent in the past while drawing stunning parallels to the here and now. That injustice is currently facing a struggle and perhaps society has reached its turning point. However, Atakora makes it clear that unless oppression is dismantled now, it will remain in control through the future.
Deftly interwoven and emotionally involving, Atakora's accomplished debut...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.
Atakora skillfully intertwines the details of both time periods, which helps shape a delicate picture of Rue. The reader understands the power of her magic juxtaposed with her desire for love, family, and a sense of normalcy. Although Rue may make unethical decisions, readers root for her to protect the secrets that shield the rest of the community from further hardship.