The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK * 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.

"This potent book about America's most disgraceful sin establishes [Ta-Nehisi Coates] as a first-rate novelist."-- San Francisco Chronicle

NOMINATED FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD * NAMED ONE OF PASTE 'S BEST NOVELS OF THE DECADE * NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time * NPR * The Washington Post * Chicago Tribune * Vanity Fair * Esquire * Good Housekeeping * Paste * Town & Country * The New York Public Library * Kirkus Reviews * Library Journal

"Nearly every paragraph is laced through with dense, gorgeously evocative descriptions of a vanished world and steeped in its own vivid vocabulary."-- Entertainment Weekly

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.

Praise for The Water Dancer

"Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race with his 2015 memoir, Between the World and Me . So naturally his debut novel comes with slightly unrealistic expectations--and then proceeds to exceed them. The Water Dancer . . . is a work of both staggering imagination and rich historical significance. . . . What's most powerful is the way Coates enlists his notions of the fantastic, as well as his fluid prose, to probe a wound that never seems to heal. . . . Timeless and instantly canon-worthy." -- Rolling Stone
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9780399590597
Branch Call Number: BOOK CLUB BAG Coates / Water
Characteristics: Original contents: 10 regular print books, 1 large print book, and 1 readers' guide in 1 bag


From Library Staff

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 A... Read More »

"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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Jan 26, 2020

Way too long, not well written. This author has taken a very serious topic and trivialized it with hocus pocus. Do not recommend this book.

Jan 23, 2020

GOOD BOOK. Read the nonfiction book The War Before the War after you finish this novel. It focuses on the Fugitive Slave Act and how it set the stage for the Civil War or as some of my Southerrn relatives call it The War of Yankee Aggression.

Jan 12, 2020

A tale of a life after slavery, with magic overtones.

Jan 08, 2020

Overall a flawed but decent read. The author didn't skim over nor dwell on the physical abuses of enslavement, however his depicting the white conductors of the underground railroad as pragmatic strategist, while reducing Tubman's exploits to a matter of mystical powers was offensive.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Jan 07, 2020

Ta-Nehisi Coates' first novel is worth checking out. It will be most appreciated by those who have a fondness for magical realism.

Jan 06, 2020

I kind of had an idea about what I was getting into when I placed my name on the long hold list for this novel. ( I am not a frequent follower of Oprah's picks). I will say that this author is very talented, his words are descriptive and flow on the page creating vivid images for the reader.
After about 150pages, I just lost interest. I do feel that this novel has value on a literary and historical level, and I can foresee a possible movie made from this novel in the future.

Dec 30, 2019

Beautifully written. powerful. Couldn't put the book down.

Dec 27, 2019

I couldn't put this book down.
The author's descriptions kept me engrossed in the details of life as a slave.
I give it 5 stars. *****

Dec 21, 2019

Just wasn't in the mood for this.

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.

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