#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
“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
“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)
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
The water dancer
It was a really good,i felt like i was in the book.
Outstanding work of fiction. Attention to detail beautiful. Verbiage eloquently used. I enjoyed very much this narrative.
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.