The Water Dancer: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This is the story of Hiram, a slave on a Virginia plantation, his father the very master of the estate. Hi is gifted beyond measure with perfect memory and recollection, save for the memory of his departed mother, lost in the fog of his mind. It is this very talent of memory that gets him called into the house to serve a new task, waiting on his white half-brother, Maynard. But Hi has another gift beyond his memory, a power known to few, the power of Conduction. Upon seeing a phantom dancing on a bridge, events are set into motion that will send Hiram on a journey through the horrors of slavery, the wonders of freedom, and the salvation of one's true family. Beautifully written, Coates has weaved a story about the power of stories; those we tell others, those we hold dear, and those forgotten waiting to reemerge. The real and the fantastic merge in what is sure to be an instant bestseller. 

— Sean


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.

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.

Advance 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)

About the Author

Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between the World and Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. Coates lives in New York City with his wife and son.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780399590597
ISBN-10: 0399590595
Publisher: One World
Publication Date: September 24th, 2019
Pages: 416