The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer

A Novel

eBook - 2019
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From the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me, a boldly conjured debut novel about a magical gift, a devastating loss, and an underground war for freedom. Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her-but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he's ever known. So begins an unexpected journey 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 idealistic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram's resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures. This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children-the violent and capricious separation of families-and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today's most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.
Publisher: 2019
ISBN: 9780399590603
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


From Library Staff

"It's historical fiction with a hint of something not-quite-realist about a young boy born into slavery whose mother was recently sold away from him, and who, in flashbacks, he can barely remember."

From the critics

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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.

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."

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.

Oct 23, 2019

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

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.

Sep 29, 2019

I’d like to read this series of books. Can I please be emailed with the notification when it becomes available for pickup?

debwalker Sep 17, 2019

Who gets to be an American hero? Ta-Nehisi Coates (author, journalist, comic book writer) infuses historical fiction with magic.


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