The Water Dancer: Book Review

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates gained popularity after Oprah selected it as the book of the season. It has seen mainstream success but that shouldn’t discourage you from reading this book at all. When you read it, you will realize why it was chosen in the first place. Check out our book review below!

The Water Dancer Summary

Hiram Walker is a slave in the south in the 1800’s on a declining tobacco plantation in Virginia. He is the son of a white plantation owner and a black mother who was sold during Hiram’s childhood. While Hiram has photographic memory, he is unable to remember his mother. 

Hiram and his (white) half-brother are driving across a bridge when the bridge suddenly collapses. Before the bridge collapses, Hiram has a vision of his mother dancing. His brother drowns but Hiram is transported to another place. He learns that he is able to transport himself though powerful visions which is how he miraculously survived.

The Water dancer book cover
The Water Dancer book review

One day, Hiram has had enough of being a slave and decided to make a run for it. He yearns for freedom and will do anything to escape. With the help of his mother through his visions, Hiram tries to break the chains of slavery and start over


This is a powerful novel that I believe everyone should read. Ta-Nehisi Coates captures the struggle of Hiram and does not hold back. But he adds a supernatural aspect to the novel that the reader can take to mean various things. But above else, it is a tragic tale of a boy separated from his mother and traumatized as a result.

Coates does a wonderful job capturing the struggle of slaves in Virginia and does an even better job of telling the story for men and women. Hiram learns as do the burden of women and how it differed from men. This book could have focused on just Hiram and his struggle but Coates wanted to make sure that was the last thing he did. Not many stories are captured from different views and work but this makes the book exceptionally great.

A fact that we often forget is that slavery is not that old. In an age when politicians and conservatives are censoring books about critical race theory and the LGBTQ, it is a good reminder that real people are affected. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a beautiful story in the form of a letter to his son called Between the World and Me that is worth checking out.

The novel was written in 2019 and was easily one of my favorite books released that year. Hiram Walker’s story of slavery and his trials and tribulations is a story of not one person but many. When an author is able to make his protagonist feel as real as Hiram, then you know you are in for a real treat.

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The beauty of this book is how vividly Coates captures the stories of people that have had their families torn apart by slavery. How stories of our loved ones keep us going when we have nothing else left of them. The characters in this book are the backbone and Coates does a wonderful job making all of them come to life.

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