Conjure Woman’s Cat by Malcolm R. Campbell explores the life of a close-knit African American community in the 1950s Florida panhandle through the eyes of Lena, the feline assistant to Eulalie, a “conjure woman” or folk-healer and magician. When an act of injustice provokes Eulalie to use her mystical powers to settle the score, it threatens to expose her own closely held secrets.
The novella’s tone and themes are similar in many ways to To Kill a Mockingbird, but with a heavy dose of magical realism. The story is engaging, with complex and believable characters, but I found it at least as fascinating as an account of traditional Southern black culture. There is even a glossary at the end of folk magic, Florida history, and mid-twentieth century blues performers. The glossary is quite interesting, but not at all necessary for enjoying the story.
Conjure Woman’s Cat deals with mature themes, but does so with discretion and sensitivity. There is a bit of rough language, but nothing middle schoolers old enough to be assigned To Kill a Mockingbird haven’t heard before.