Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines own the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order.
When some white boys rape and murder a black girl named Mattie near the sawmill, the police have no suspects and don’t intend to find any. Eulalie, who sees conjure as a way of helping the good Lord work His will, intends to set things right by “laying tricks.”
But Eulalie has secrets of her own, and it’s hard not to look back on her own life and ponder how the decisions she made while drinking and singing at the local juke were, perhaps, the beginning of Mattie’s ending.
Bonus “Glossary and Notes” included in the back of the book.
The plot is multi-layered and confronts racism head-on. If you are offended by certain terms, this may not be the book for you, however it fits the era and is realistic of the times. This story concerns two families in particular. Both being torn apart, one eventually comes to terms with the past so the healing can begin. It's a realistic and moving story that will break your heart but then try to make you whole again. This book gives you a look at how white justice was handled in the south. It is sad to believe that certain aspects of this still hold true today. No one can undo the past and it could take years to get past the hurt even if the pain is a sacred pain.
Conjure Woman's Cat takes on a host of tough topics -- race, class, and sexual abuse -- and tells about them from the point of view of a magical cat.
Lena is the name of the cat in question. She belongs to Eulalie, a conjure woman (in a different neighborhood, she might have been called a hedge witch) who lives in a tiny town in rural Florida. In this era, poor black women still care for the children of wealthy white racists and the Ku Klux Klan stands ready to assist if any black person gets above their station. When a young black girl named Mattie disappears, Lena steps between the worlds to find out what happened to her. And when Lena discovers that Mattie was raped and murdered by some local white boys, she and her conjure woman wreak their own version of justice on the perpetrators.
Of course, when any book is narrated by an animal, readers have to suspend their disbelief from the get-go. I didn't find that difficult with this book. I was quickly drawn in by Lena's unique voice, and by the mysterious goings-on around her and Eulalie. I loved the way Campbell made magic part of the fabric of the place. And I was glad to see those boys get the comeuppance they deserved.
Readers of magic realism will appreciate Conjure Woman's Cat. Highly recommended.