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Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

October 7, 2019

A dazzling debut novel, with echoes of Homegoing and Beloved, that sweeps across eras and generations, bridging the American Civil War, to tell the story of a mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing–and the conjuring of curses.

Freedomtime, 1867. Rue is a midwife and healer, living with other former slaves on the only land she knows, an old plantation where the burned ruins of a once-grand mansion are a silent sentinel to a bygone world. Rue protects the secrets she’s carried since before the war, the memories of her strange friendship with the master’s daughter, Varina, and the loss of her mother, May Belle, who taught her everything she knows about the gathering of herbs for healing and the crafting of curses. Rue’s quiet life is disrupted by the birth of a pale child with black eyes, a charismatic traveling preacher, and a devastating sickness that haunts a community.

Slaverytime, 1854. Slaves and even masters visit May Belle to benefit from her healing powers – as well as from her uncanny ability to cast misfortune on those who deserve it. But May Belle’s talents put her and the man she loves in harm’s way. On the eve of the war, tragedy strikes, and a reckoning comes for May Belle, Rue, and the people on the plantation.

Moving back and forth in time between the years before and after the Civil War, Conjure Women tells the haunting story of Rue and May Belle – and the lengths they will go to save themselves and those they love.

Published 2nd April 2020 | Hardback | 9780008293918 | RRP £12.99

If you’re a bookseller in the UK or Ireland and you’d like an advance reading copy of Conjure Women, please send your request, along with your name and bookshop address, to Ammara at

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