#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • 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.
“This potent book about America’s most disgraceful sin establishes [Ta-Nehisi Coates] as a first-rate novelist.”—San Francisco Chronicle
NAMED ONE OF PASTE’S BEST NOVELS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago Tribune • Esquire • Good Housekeeping • The New York Public Library • The Dallas Morning News • Kirkus Reviews • Library Journal
“Nearly every paragraph is laced through with dense, gorgeously evocative descriptions of a vanished world and steeped in its own vivid vocabulary.”—Entertainment Weekly
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 is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.
Praise for The Water Dancer
“Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race with his 2015 memoir, Between the World and Me. So naturally his debut novel comes with slightly unrealistic expectations—and then proceeds to exceed them. The Water Dancer . . . is a work of both staggering imagination and rich historical significance. . . . What’s most powerful is the way Coates enlists his notions of the fantastic, as well as his fluid prose, to probe a wound that never seems to heal. . . . Timeless and instantly canon-worthy.”—Rolling Stone
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In his debut novel, essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates (author of the National Book Award winner Between the World and Me) pens a powerful fable of slavery and racism, mixing elements of magic realism with his trademark social and cultural commentary. Coates tells the story of Hiram Walker’s dangerous break for freedom—and his bid to reunite his family—without ever using words like “slave” or “master,” giving the book a timeless, archetypal feel that contains echoes of both ancient folk myths and modern-day superheroes. Scandal co-star Joe Morton’s gripping narration enhances the suspense and excitement of Hiram’s journey from unforgiving brutality to wondrous hope. He does an amazing job highlighting the sheer beauty of Coates’ storytelling, even breaking into song in some especially memorable scenes.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Vividly will forgive live in my mind
This book was one of the best experiences I have ever had for a long time. I lived the story with each one of the characters, and I keep loving them even now I finished the book.
In my line of work, and the life I am leading I have seen this book and have experienced the stories in it. But never well put in words even and in someone else’s shoes.
‘I can only carry so many, and then so far.' I heard this in my line of work, a fact I can't shake. The echoing of the voice of the women telling me these stories is as vivid as the pages I finished when I read the Water Dancer.
I am so happy I read and listened to this book. I extremely appreciated the narration as well, because it was done perfectly even if some characters sounded the same. I loved the experience and I have recommended this book a hundred time already.
Last name walker, middle name dancer
Surprising combination of suspense, fantasy and lyrical prose. Recommended for those looking to pass the time in traffic, or anyone wanting to transport themselves into a new world; just remember to have water and a strong memory on hand.
Must read — inspiring book
The use of magical realism allows readers to enter and understand the lives of enslaved people in a way that other works of fiction haven’t done. It was eye-opening.