Lovers of Ta-Nehisi Coates will not be surprised to learn that his debut novel is just as illuminating and nuanced as his non-fiction. The Water Dancer joins the large echelon of American slave escape narratives but Coates makes it personal, makes it universal, connects the threads to the arc of existence. Coates does not use magical realism but the novel sits right on the cusp, the power of faith and love is written with such reverence you feel the magic and despair in existence. Coates manages to write a spiritual feeling that sweeps you up and reminds you how small you are and how we are all one and the same. My favorite portions feature Harriet Tubman in all her enchanting glory. I loved this book. I am sure this will not be an original opinion for long.
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 isa propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.
Advance praise for The Water Dancer
“In prose that sings and imagination that soars, Coates further cements himself as one of this generation’s most important writers, tackling one of America’s oldest and darkest periods with grace and inventiveness. This is bold, dazzling, and not to be missed.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Coates brings his considerable talent for racial and social analysis to his debut novel, which captures the brutality of slavery and explores the underlying truth that slaveholders could not dehumanize the enslaved without also dehumanizing themselves. Beautifully written, this is a deeply and soulfully imagined look at slavery and human aspirations.”—Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between the World and Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. Coates lives in New York City with his wife and son.