Title: The Water Dancer
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published: September 24, 2019 by One World
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 4.08 out of 5
My Rating: ★★★★
“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 utopic 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.”
I have a lot of mixed feelings on this book. The biggest thing I wish I would have known going into the story though was that this was about The Underground Railroad. I had no idea. Maybe I just missed the message but I wish I would have known that, because then I would have spent less time going back and forth whether that was what the book was about. I also will say that while there is some sort of ‘magic’ in the book, it’s way more a historical fiction than a magical realism book. If you know those two things going in, you’re golden.
It took me a really long time to ‘get into’ this book. I’m not sure if it was just too heavy a read for during this time or that I wasn’t in the right head-space to really focus on the writing. Considering all the craziness going on with COVID-19 right now, I would say save this book for when you have the emotional and mental capacity to really invest.
This is not a fast read. At 400 pages it’s on the larger side but even then just digesting the information takes time. I didn’t really get captured into the story until part II which is about 150 pages into the book. Once I reach there the other 250 pages flew by!
Coates, is an amazingly brilliant writer. He’s words are largely poetic and I could feel the emotion behind them. The book is divided into three parts and Part I was my least favorite. He spends that time really laying the ground work for the story, but I found myself confused by terms and events that were happening. It also doesn’t have much of a plot to begin with, which is a personal preference of mine, that I really like to know the plot of the story to begin with. However, once you read through the rest of the book, the haziness of Part I really makes sense, and adds an extreme amount of value to the story.
Ultimately, I really loved the book. I deducted a star for taking such a long time to capture my attention, but as I mentioned that could wholly be due to my current mental state. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about the anti-slavery movement in the US or for history buffs that like a little fiction mixed in with the facts!
This book is out now! If you think you’d like to read this book, get your copy HERE!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on The Water Dancer. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.
About the Author
Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Between the World and Me, a finalist for the National Book Award. A MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow, Coates has received the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story “The Case for Reparations.” He lives in New York with his wife and son.
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