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The unmissable debut novel by the critically acclaimed author of Between the World and Me andWe Were Eight Years in Power - a richly imagined and compulsively page-turning journey to freedom
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'I haven't felt this way since I first read Beloved... I wish Toni [Morrison] was alive to actually read this book. She would be so proud' - Oprah
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.
Propulsive, transcendent and blazing with truth, The Water Dancer is a story of oppression and resistance, separation and homecoming. Ta-Nehisi Coates imagines the covert war of an enslaved people in response to a generations-long human atrocity - a war for the right to life, to kin, to freedom.
'One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. Right up there in the top five. I was enthralled, I was devastated. I felt hope, I felt gratitude, I felt joy... [Ta-Nehisi Coates] is a magnificent writer' Oprah
Coates (We Were Eight Years in Power) makes his ambitious fiction debut with this wonderful novel that follows Hiram Walker, a boy with an extraordinary memory. Born on a Virginia plantation, he realizes at five that he has a photographic recall except where it concerns his mother, Rose, who was sold and whom he can only reconstruct through what others tell him. Born to Rose and Howell Walker, master and owner of Lockless, the land Hiram works, Hiram is called up at age 12 to the house to serve Maynard, his half-brother. When the novel opens, Hiram is 19, and he and Maynard are on their way back to Lockless when the bridge they're traveling over collapses. Deep in the river, Hiram is barraged with visions of his ancestors, and finally a woman water-dancing, whom he recognizes as his mother. After he wakes up, mysteriously saved even as Maynard dies, Hiram yearns for a life beyond "the unending night of slavery." But when his plans to escape with Sophia, the woman he loves, are dashed by betrayal and violence, Hiram is inducted into the Underground, the secret network of agents working to liberate slaves. Valued for his literacy and for the magical skill the Underground believes he possesses, Hiram comes to learn that the fight for freedom comes with its own sacrifices and restrictions. 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.