Jee reviews ‘The Water Dancer’ #TheWaterDancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates #TaNehisiCoates @RandomHouse #RandomHouse @OprahsBookClub #NetGalley #eARC #magicalRealism #fictionFantasy #historicalFiction

Title/Author: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coats

Publisher: One World/Random House

In a nutshell (Publisher):

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 isa propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.


Expect brilliant writing and masterful storytelling that capture love, racism and slavery with heart and brutal honesty

My thoughts:

Virginia, 1800s.

Hiram Walker, or known just as ‘Hi’, was born into bondage. His mother was sold away when he was 9, and he had pushed his ‘memory of her into the “down there” of his mind. His memories of her were mostly of her water-dancing, with an earthen jar on her head, patting juba on a bridge.

It was this very memory, so vivid, so clear and strong, that saved his life. It was later too that this memory saved his life again, and then he began to realize, he had, inside him, a power that could take him away, far away from the only home he had ever known, and way up to the North where freedom is real.

With power, comes responsibility. What will he do with such immense power? Escape? Save his loved ones? Do they want to be saved? Do they want to leave what had been so familiar to them?

Thus began a journey of discovery of one self, of fear and strength, of sadness and triumphs, of loss and love and of all, of the power of the mind.

This started a little slow for me and it didn’t help the fact that many characters were introduced too. I got a little worried because I really wanted to like this book. But that didn’t last long.

As I got invested in the characters which Coates developed so well, it was hard for me to extricate myself from their world. He made me part of their journey; part of Lockless and Underground. As the layers of each character slowly peeled away revealing their deepest thoughts and emotions, I found myself drawn to them and their stories.

I understood why for some, it was so hard to leave their only ‘home’ they’d known all their lives, and be freed from the invisible chain that had held them for years; and why for some others, were willing to risk it all in exchange for freedom and/or power, even if it meant betraying their own family and people.

I also loved reading Hiram’s journey to self-discovery. How, with each step of the way, he learned that he had to conquer his fear and painful past, in order to release that power that he had in him. The Conduction.

And there were also the women – Harriet Tubman, whose influence, power and sacrifices were beyond words; Sophia, Thena and Corrine whose strength, wisdom, intelligence and determination to survive, I found remarkable. I know I wouldn’t have survived given the conditions.

Overall, a powerful debut novel! Read this if you enjoy historical fiction with elements of magical realism mixed in.

Thank you Netgalley and Random Publishing House for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Special thanks to the publisher for providing the quote cards! Aren’t they gorgeous!

Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!

Last but not least, thank you for stopping by and may the power of good books be with you always!

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Such a great review, Jee! I’m glad you enjoyed it and it became a very good read after a slow start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Stephen! Yes I was so afraid of the slow start and that I might not enjoy it😅 coz I really enjoyed his non-fiction ‘Between The Word and Me. Have you read it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! No, I haven’t read anything by this author.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jee Wan says:

        I think you might enjoy ‘Between the World and Me’.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you for the recommendation!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Jee Wan says:

        You’re welcome 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosie Amber says:

    These type of stories need telling, it made me think about The Help, I know that’s had a lot of differeing opinions but at the base of it it is still a story about human beings and how they’ve been treated in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      I agree and that we shd all learn from our past and mistakes. It’s probably easier said than done though 😔


  3. Great review, Jee. I have this queued up from my library. Now I’m really looking forward to it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Scarlett! Can’t wait to read what you think of it once you get to it ❤️


  4. Such a beautiful review, Jee! It sounds like one I’ll love, too, and I am so excited to have it here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, Jennifer! Can’t wait to read your review once you get to it! ❤️😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. nsfordwriter says:

    Really good review Jee! 🙂
    I think it is probably not my kind of read, I’m not really keen on historical fiction. Interesting that it has magical realism elements though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you, NS! ❤️ Quite a strong debut novel I must say. Looking forward to reading more from him 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. lydiaschoch says:

    This was such a good review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jee Wan says:

      Thank you so much!


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