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The Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A…
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The Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel (edition 2019)

by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1055912,884 (4.05)71
"Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage--and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child--but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn't understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram's private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he's ever known. So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery 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 utopic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, all Hiram wants is to return to the Walker Plantation to free the family he left behind--but to do so, he must first master his magical gift and reconstruct the story of his greatest loss. 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 America's oldest struggle--the struggle to tell the truth--from one of our most exciting thinkers and beautiful writers"--… (more)
Member:equanimity23
Title:The Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel
Authors:Ta-Nehisi Coates (Author)
Info:One World (2019), Edition: First Edition, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:african-american, year-2020, fantasy, fiction, magical-realism, historical-fiction, poc-author

Work details

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  1. 10
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (g33kgrrl)
    g33kgrrl: Two amazing authors, two different literary approaches to the underground railroad, two stories, one terrible time in US history.
  2. 00
    An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (bibliovermis)
    bibliovermis: Two books of wildly, vastly different genres and tones, but with an overlap in period, character traits and characterization, and cultural analysis that's frankly kind of weird.
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» See also 71 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
4.5 ( )
  Cliff_F | Sep 11, 2020 |
Loved it.
Read it using Overdrive on my Kobo Aura H2O.
It’s written in the first person from the point of view of Hiram, the central character. Set in Virginia, Hiram is a slave and this story is about his fight for freedom, remembering his past, and learning what freedom means. That’s all I say, lest I share spoilers. ( )
  DwaynesBookList | Aug 14, 2020 |
This novel is a bit hard to review, because I don't want to put off readers who are new to this genre (magical realism layered into historical fiction around the horrors of slavery). Coates is of course a famous nonfiction writer. Unfortunately comparisons of The Water Dancer to Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad are inevitable, and here, Colson comes out ahead. Far ahead. The Water Dancer has much to recommend it, but ultimately, its writing is a bit overwrought, and the use of magical realism does not illuminate much other than seeming to allow many overwritten passages and a couple small deus ex machinae. It is surprising to me that Coates would have first novel syndrome...but this is it. ( )
  sparemethecensor | Aug 7, 2020 |
Powerful, wide ranging slave narrative - with elements of mysterious "conduction": folklore/magic of the Underground RR's almost unbelievable ability to "spirit" away slaves from their owners and re-establish them in freed blacks' communities up North. This is a looong read but the young Hiram, a child born to the Lockless VA property planter white owner & his slave mamma, the main character's "arc" is realistic and fantastical, in alternating ways - and his voice remains uniquely his throughout. Harriet Tubman & an unbelievably strange but successful VA plantation daughter turned full abolitionist - leading a completely dual existence of a refined local Southern family member, and a fierce, daring Underground RR operative on the other: both these women play pivotal roles in Hiram's development. Other key women in his life include Thena, a longsuffering & carefully controlled slave woman who raises him when his mother is sold away; his long absent but somehow present mother, and the young Sophia, slave woman who is "attached" to a nearby plantation owner, and is called upon regularly to be his companion & mistress as required. Compares to Octavia Butler's Kindred , or to M.E. Anderson's Octavius Nothing or even to Frederick Douglass' Autobiography. Heavy read - only mature YA readers. ( )
  BDartnall | Aug 5, 2020 |
A story of slavery that doesn't focus on the physical horrors of slavery but the humanity. The Tasked are portrayed as real human beings and slavery is shown from the impact on their emotional lives. Hiram is the half-son of Quality, the owner of the land. His worth, both in intellect and character, is recognized by his father but not rewarded. He merely gets assigned a different task - looking out for his white half-brother who is a monumental disappointment to their father. Hiram is troubled by the missing memories of his mother but he holds out hope that his father will one day realize his potential. When it becomes clear that will never happen and Hiram falls in love with a woman, he knows he can't stay - he has to run. Coates' unique version of the Underground Railroad, based on fact but enhanced with magical realism, places value on the power of memory, specifically of remembering those we have lost. This beautifully descriptive read (Joe Morton's audiobook narration is excellent!) gets bogged down at times but is mostly compelling and thought-provoking. ( )
  bookappeal | Jul 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coates, Ta-Nehisiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
mollica, gregCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morton, JoeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rawles, Calida GarciaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My part has been to tell the story of the slave. The story of the master never wanted for narrators. -Frederick Douglass
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For Chana
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And I could only have seen her there on the stone bridge, a dancer wreathed in ghostly blue, because that was the way they would have taken her back when I was young, back when the Virginia earth was still red as brick and red with life, and though there were other bridges spanning the river Goose, they would have bound her and brought her across this one, because this was the bridge that fed into the turnpike that twisted its way through the green hills and down the valley before bending in one direction, and that direction was south.
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"Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage--and lost his mother and all memory of her when he was a child--but he is also gifted with a mysterious power. Hiram almost drowns when he crashes a carriage into a river, but is saved from the depths by a force he doesn't understand, a blue light that lifts him up and lands him a mile away. This strange brush with death forces a new urgency on Hiram's private rebellion. Spurred on by his improvised plantation family, Thena, his chosen mother, a woman of few words and many secrets, and Sophia, a young woman fighting her own war even as she and Hiram fall in love, he becomes determined to escape the only home he's ever known. So begins an unexpected journey into the covert war on slavery 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 utopic movements in the North. Even as he's enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, all Hiram wants is to return to the Walker Plantation to free the family he left behind--but to do so, he must first master his magical gift and reconstruct the story of his greatest loss. 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 America's oldest struggle--the struggle to tell the truth--from one of our most exciting thinkers and beautiful writers"--

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