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The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates


The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published in: 2019
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★★]

This ARC was provided by Penguin UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

One word review – Powerful

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

My Thoughts: This book is so beautifully written it reads like a poem to the sins of slavery and not just the slavery that exists between master and slave but also that between men and women. Coates looks at the balance of all unequal relationships and gives the underdog their own voice. In this way he educates his own characters that the world is not black and white and at the same time his readers are forced to acknowledge imbalances that are often looked over.

The scenes that highlight the evils of slavery are brutal but necessary and not overdone.

This is also a book full of shades of grey. Hiram’s white father acknowledges him as his son but refuses to raise him out of slavery, slave mothers escape leaving children behind, families are ripped apart and slaves turn against each other for advantage and yet on the other side of the equation white and black, men and women work together to free slaves and get them to a better life, slaves are allowed to buy their own freedom (not something they should have to buy) and there are whites willing to lay down their own lives for what is right. While slavery quite rightly is shown as evil all the people in the story are shown to be human and fallible.

I loved the magical realism in the books and the deep connection that memories have to freedom. Memories, song and dancing are shown to be vital to the soul and to any escape.

Favourite Quotes:

“They are both weaned on the religion of society, of slavery, which holds that for no particular good reason one of them will live in the palace, while the other will be condemned to the dungeon.”

“Slavery is everyday longing, is being born into a world of forbidden victuals and tantalizing untouchables – the land around you, the clothes you hem, the biscuits you bake.”

“To forget is to truly slave. To forget is to die.”

“And now look at you, stewing over what you don’t own, over what no man should ever try to own.”

“to forgive was irrelevant, but to forget was death.”

Who would like this? I would recommend this to anyone looking to understand more about the injustice of slavery, anyone who enjoys magical realism and anyone who appreciates a book not being black and white.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gail #

    Great review. Have been meaning to read this and now it is definitely on my TBR

    Liked by 1 person

    October 11, 2020
    • Book Worm #

      I think you will appreciate this one – let us know once you have read it


      October 11, 2020
  2. love this blog post! great content!


    October 11, 2020

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