The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer

A Novel

Book - 2019
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"Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage--and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child--but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn't understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram's private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he's ever known. So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia's proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, all Hiram wants is to return to the Walker Plantation to free the family he left behind--but to do so, he must first master his magical gift and reconstruct the story of his greatest loss. This is a bracingly original vision of the world of slavery, written with the narrative force of a great adventure. Driven by the author's bold imagination and striking ability to bring readers deep into the interior lives of his brilliantly rendered characters, The Water Dancer is the story of America's oldest struggle--the struggle to tell the truth--from one of our most exciting thinkers and beautiful writers"--
Publisher: New York : One World, ©2019.
ISBN: 9780399590597
Characteristics: 403 pages ;,25 cm.

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SCL_Justin Dec 10, 2019

The Water Dancer is a good story about how slavery destroys people and the kind of non-supernatural people and heroes it takes to resist such terrible institutions even as they are dying off. The supernatural elements to the story actually help highlight that, which for whatever reason spoke more to me than Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad.

k
kawidman
Dec 05, 2019

When I wasn't reading this book I was *thinking* about reading this book. Coates can write a sentence and description like no one's business.

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becker
Dec 03, 2019

The writing in this book lives up to the author's reputation, in other words very strong. It is also a good story and offers a variation on most typical stories of the underground railroad. However I did struggle with one thing. I found the delivery a bit dry. I don't know if it was tone or pacing. I can't put my finger on it, but there were large sections of it that were flat for me. I would still recommend it because I think it was just a personal taste issue that I struggle to even define.

c
cindiet
Nov 23, 2019

Rec by Carolyn Fairl
Nov 2019

l
loriemash
Nov 07, 2019

The summary of the book talks about Hiram's power of conduction yet it is only during the last 20 pages or so that Hiram manages to harness this power and actually use it himself. Based on the summary I assumed Hiram would be able to use his power of conduction to rescue many slaves but it was his other skills that were put to use. In the last 50 pages he is still begging Corrine for help and permission to rescue his family and despite putting the underground in danger, he is still not confident of his powers of conduction. I feel disappointed and misled. I wish Hiram had taken more of a lead role in the rescue operations.
However, the book does have a lot of beautiful and powerful dialogue.

l
lukasevansherman
Nov 05, 2019

"It ain't about freedom. It's about war."
Debut novel from the celebrated (and sometimes controversial) author of "Between the World and Me" and "We Were Eight Years in Power." Expectations are certainly high and while it's a strong, absorbing novel, it's not quite as powerful as his non-fiction. Set during slavery, it's about the underground railroad, among other things, although it will inevitably be compared to Colson Whitehead's "Underground Railroad" and, perhaps, Esi Edugyan's "Washington Black."

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booknrrd
Oct 29, 2019

Coates's debut novel is about a motherless young man born into slavery coming of age and discovering that he has a strange ability after a near drowning that causes him to wash up on the shore a mile from where he went into the water.

Coates's strengths to me are his characters and their relationships to each other. He really shines at showing the heavy costs of slavery to families and individuals and their relationships. I really felt his characters and the emotional burdens they carried.

I listened to the audiobook. I struggled a bit to get into it, but that could be just because this is a denser read than a lot of books on the market today. Ultimately, I found my stride within the novel, and the audiobook was wonderful.

j
jrn520
Oct 23, 2019

On page 270 or so. Need to return it. Not sure if worth it or not.

r
Reads_A_Lot
Oct 18, 2019

Phew- I finally finished this book. This was such a slow read for me. I usually finish a book in a few days. This one took me 2 weeks. I just wasn’t drawn back to the story. I found myself finding something else to do like watching Netflix instead of going back to the book. Not sure why. I normally like historical fiction set in this time period, and Hiram wasn’t a bad character, but something just didn’t click with me and this book. It might have been that there was a lot of contemplation in this book and not enough action and dialogue to move it along at a better pace. I’m sure a lot of Oprah book club fans will love it, but it didn’t live up to the hype for me.

STPL_JessH Oct 02, 2019

Well, I have to say that the first half of this book was absolutely everything I wanted from Ta-Nehsisi Coates' debut novel. The writing is absolutely transformative. I read slowly so I could savor each luscious description. I was thrilled by the nuance and the careful way Coates layers story upon story.

That said, I did not enjoy the last half of the book as much. While the idea is intriguing and has great potential, the execution was a bit flawed. I found myself confused by what was occurring and I think part of that reveals Coates' limitations as a debut novelist. As soon as he departs from realistic fiction and wades into magic realism, the quality of the writing begins to change. Magic realism demands artistry and while Coates writes beautifully, I was unconvinced in many moments of the text. It was such a stark departure from the painstakingly detailed world Coates crafted in the first half of the book. I also agree with other reviewers that the ending is a bit too tidy. I found it unsatisfying considering the amount of emotion, memory, and weight the first half of the book carried.

Overall, I absolutely recommend this book and will continue to eagerly await what Coates publishes next.

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