The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Published October 31, 2019

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Book info

  • Title The Water Dancer
  • Author Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Year 2019
  • Genres Historical, Fantasy

Hiram Walker is born into bondage on a Virginia plantation. But he is also born gifted with a mysterious power that he won't discover until he is almost a man, when he risks everything for a chance to escape. One fateful decision will carry him away from his makeshift plantation family - his adoptive mother, Thena, a woman of few words and many secrets, and his beloved, angry Sophia - and into the covert heart of the underground war on slavery. Hidden amidst the corrupt grandeur of white plantation society, exiled as guerrilla cells in the wilderness, buried in the coffin of the deep South and agitating for utopian ideals in the North, there exists a widespread network of secret agents working to liberate the enslaved. Hiram joins their ranks and learns fast but in his heart he yearns to return to his own still-enslaved family, to topple the plantation that was his first home. But to do so, he must first master his unique power and reclaim the story of his greatest loss.


As I mentioned when I wrote about Oprah’s Book Club, I probably would never have found this book if it hadn’t been so widely promoted on Apple’s various platforms. And if I’m being truly honest, I probably wouldn’t have got to the end of the book if it wasn’t for the nice routine I got into reading ten minutes every day to meet the Apple Books goal I set myself.

But I’m really glad I did. It took me a while to get into the flow of the book, it has a dream-like quality and one where no extraneous explanations are given. The facts, the dialogue, they’re all there if you choose to find them, and I’m confident plenty of it went over my head. That took nothing away from it though, the story grabs you and, for want of a better word, conducts you through the various adventures.

Despite the fantastical nature of the story, there is still a feeling of subdued humility, it’s a gentle story. Even the moments of violence are mostly alluded to or stumbled upon afterwords, they are not explicit. There’s some great insight into the division between Tasked and Quality, and where those lines start to blur. Plus, I couldn’t quite get over the amazing the amazing fortitude of people who have had such wrongs done to them.

“We forgot nothing, you and I,” Harriet said. “To forget is to truly slave. To forget is to die.”

Overall, I can’t put hand to heart and say I enjoyed every page of this or fully grasped everything it was trying to convey, but that’s on me. It’s an excellent work and definitely worth picking up. Thanks Oprah!

Rating: 3 / 5

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