The Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

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Written By: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Narrated By: Joe Morton

Date: September 2019

Duration: 14 hours 16 minutes


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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

IN DEVELOPMENT AS A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • Adapted by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kamilah Forbes, directed by Nia DaCosta, and produced by MGM, Plan B, and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films

NOMINATED FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD • NAMED ONE OF PASTE’S BEST NOVELS OF THE DECADE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Time • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago Tribune • Vanity Fair • Esquire • Good Housekeeping • Paste • Town & Country • The New York Public Library • Kirkus Reviews • Library Journal

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.

Praise for The Water Dancer

“Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race with his 2015 memoir, Between the World and Me. So naturally his debut novel comes with slightly unrealistic expectations—and then proceeds to exceed them. The Water Dancer . . . is a work of both staggering imagination and rich historical significance. . . . What’s most powerful is the way Coates enlists his notions of the fantastic, as well as his fluid prose, to probe a wound that never seems to heal. . . . Timeless and instantly canon-worthy.”—Rolling Stone


  • Jasmine M.

    So thought provoking, emotionally intelligent, heartbreaking, wise, entertaining.... It is alive in itself. Narrator was made to do this story! Beautiful experience all the way around.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful.

  • Janice C.

    The personal, although fictional, history is so well authored. Mr. Coates transports you to his era. However; the book is long winded, repetitive. I got lost in the sea of characters. Also, I’m not a lover of the mystical part, especially referring to actual people in history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Patricia M.

    I have just retired as a History high school teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There are so many ways that students can learn from this book. A few to mention symbolisms especially about the water and about different characters. Looking at a story from a fifferent perspective and allowing them to research and allow them to dare wtite this story differently. Relationships with your family and what would you do if you lost your love ones at a young age. Your first love and how it can and does affect you for the rest of your life. How are we enslaved today? I would have them compare this book with stories and books from the Holocaust. So much more. Great book. Pat Mal

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Juliet G.

    absolutely enjoyed this book. the reader made it very interesting too.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Lauren W.

    Wonderful book. The narrator was excellent.

  • Jody B.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates writes as if he was actually a slave and living among those people. I was captured in the antagonist plot from the start of the book. I was waiting behind a tree or next to the river just waiting to see where he goes or what he has planned. There wasn't a dull moment. Wow-what a mind what an imagination. Thank you for bringing slavery to the forefront. Thank you for all the characters, just wonderful. I just wanted to keep listening.

  • Robin B.

    A story about how to escape the thoughts, struggles, chains ...etc that hold us as back from achieving our God given goals!!

  • Cathy C.

    Such a beautiful and brutal story...a great pairing of tremendously gifted writer and powerful narrator

  • Anonymous

    I really did not care for this book at all. The singing drove me crazy, and the straying into the supernatural was just weird. I kept hoping it would get better, but I truly hated this book.

  • Anonymous

    I was unable to get very far in this book. I lost interest after about 1- 2 hours of listening. I usually enjoy audiobooks but this story could not hold my interest.

  • Emma M.

    Vivid. Lyrical. Poignant. A great read.

  • Carol I.

    Wonderful story. Outstanding narrative. More like a radio play than a reading.

  • Kyra R.

    When I didn't get it the first time, the subtle time, the unfamiliar time, the time I recall but did not understand at the time time, no worry, he tells it again and again until it all comes rolling into the very characteristics and inhumane experiences of enslavement that we see upon us today... Concentration camps. Children being ripped from their parents. The ongoing rape, extraction and abandonment of the land we get rich from and move on when its used up. The condoned rape of women. Sterilization of women without their consent, who are imprisoned for seeking asylum from violence. The kind of morals and values required for the integration of lives and all the stories that must be remembered in order to ?conduct? and not be stuck in an endless loop of despair, imposed by and evolving-with-the-times kind of force, relentlessly applied to continue the ongoing death of everything 'else' - even if unwittingly. The need to recognize deep freedom that is inclusive of a woman's freedom to do and have her body on her own terms. Black women's bodies freedom. Black female slave's freedom who no one owns any part of. And never did. This is a literary model of grown man integrity from the perspective of a growing man, written by and narrated by grown men; of female leadership, of white ally ship and its fallibility yet integral necessity for the reader to be guided by in this new era of hearts and minds so narrowly twisted into an ideal based in slavery yet so far removed from they can forget and deny there are any remnants of it left. The very definition of complacent, proclaiming some myth of 'worked and fought hard for the freedoms' they are therefore entitled to. But those battles were the force put onto other people's lives and the cruel work of assimilating - from a pure child - to a murderous culture of violence and force and 'winning', in ongoing battles where the heart begins to fade away and shrivel and all memory is lost. All connectivity to lost. Thus the need to conduct. TC makes very clear why we all must remember, through the pain and the shame. He conjures a spiritual ecstasy like non other I have experienced in literature, of the parallels of then and today by diving so deeply into your heart and conjuring a different rhythm therein. Like music, but even more. It's Matrix, slave narrative, and historical document so well researched and brought home into a kind of Afrofuturism.

  • Anonymous

  • Renee K.

    Remarkable in every way!

  • Shawn B.

    Great read. Very creative. Loved the book.

  • Corinne P.

    Vivid characters and interesting historical storyline.

  • Valory J.

    Wonderfully written! I continue to think about the characters and how their lives might have progressed. Totally pulls the reader into the time period.

  • Cynthia R.

    Storyteller extraordinaire I was put back into the 1800s and want to listen to it again and again thank you

  • Anna G.

    I had head rave reviews about this book, so perhaps I went in with my expectations too high. It was just very boring for me. I wanted to like it so terribly and kept waiting for it to get better but it just never did. It took me well over a month to get through it because I kept making mental excuses to read something else.

  • Janis S.

    I thought the narrator was very good, loved his singing voice with one caveat that really annoyed me. During long dialogs he seemed to develop hypersalivation, accumulating a lot of saliva in his mouth and it really was hard to listen with earbuds in when this happened. Sorry, it was frequent enough that I have to comment. Maybe I'm neurotic, but this has never happened with other readers I've listened too. It did get in the way of my ability to concentrate.

  • Latoya L.

    Great read, I mean can you expect anything less .

  • Kimberly J.

    Full disclosure - I was not a fan of Between The World And Me. Not one bit. I LOVED THE WATER DANCER! The word that kept coming to mind as I listened to the audiobook was "masterpiece." A gripping and historically important read. Best narration I've ever heard in any audiobook.

  • Hilary C.

    Very, very good. Riveting. A novel of great importance. Must read. The narration is excellence.

  • Joe F.

    Too long. Book rambled

Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel, Ta-Nehisi Coates
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