The Water Dancer [Book Review]

October 17, 2019

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Water Dancer review.jpg

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, African-American, Slavery, Underground Railroad

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

The Water Dancer tells the engaging and powerful story of Hiram Walker who is born into slavery and who has a mysterious and magical power. He is compelled to leave his home and adopted mother as he follows his rebellious spirit and searches for freedom. Hiram connects with the Underground Railroad, masters his mysterious power, and seeks to return home on his own terms to rescue his adopted mother and his love interest.

Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:

Writing: If you love beautiful and powerful writing of the quality found in literary fiction, I think you will appreciate The Water Dancer.  There is an abundance of exquisite writing, intrigue, and page-turning action in this expertly constructed story.

Main Character: I love how the author explores Hiram’s motivations and thoughts and emotions. Throughout the story, Hiram becomes a real person to me and I care deeply about his well being. The character of Hiram gives me insight into the trauma and injustice that he and others endured. He also meets Harriet Tubman!

Magical Realism: I’m not an avid fan of magical realism, so the inclusion of it here in a serious work of historical fiction is challenging.  For me, it is a bit distracting from the content. However, I can appreciate how it works with the author’s themes and message. Magical Realism falls into the category of personal preference, and my mention of it here is not a criticism.

Recommended: I recommend The Water Dancer for fans of literary/historical fiction, for those who appreciate Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, and for readers who are looking for stories with compelling and inspirational main characters living in complicated and tragic times. This is a new author to me, and I definitely want to read his nonfiction work.

If you have read this and are an “own voices” reviewer, I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments (and please leave the link to your review).

My Rating:  4 Stars


The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer Information

Meet the Author, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and 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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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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20 thoughts on “The Water Dancer [Book Review]

  1. This sounds like such a compelling read – I’ve heard only good things about this book and surprisingly all from people who aren’t really in to this type of book! It sounds great and it’s one for my list, for sure 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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