The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates


Ta-Nehisi Coates’ debut novel (He’d previously released a book of essays) was one of the best books of 2019. It was 4th BOTM book I received last year.

This is a tale of the underground railroad/resistance against Southern Slavery in the early 1800’s. We follow Hiram Walker, the bastard son of a black slave (who was sold off) and his Master. Mr Walker knows his son is special, he just doesn’t realize that he is magical. For a time he is brought into the home to be a servant for his half brother. Once the brother dies, things spiral and Hiram makes a break for it.

The remainder of the book details Hiram’s enlistment with the Underground and his slow realization that he has the power of Conduction, the ability to transport himself (think Star Trek) using water and the power of story. His abilities grow, he makes friends, and the story concludes as he returns to the plantation to rescue slaves and confront his past.

My description does not do the book justice. It is a pure joy to read. Coates has a distinct voice, a style of writing, that draws you in and never lets go. For me, the book passed by in a breeze and I dreaded the eventual ending. This was a selection for several book clubs last year and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I will have to check out his first book. If the prose is as well written as this I will be happy indeed.


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