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September 24, 2019
Hiram Walker is a slave. Born a slave and destined to die a slave—despite being the illegitimate son of the plantation master. At nine years old, his mother is sold, and, though the other slaves take care of him, Hiram is understandably wounded in a way that can’t be healed. But Hiram learns to bury his pain and do whatever he has to do to get through The Task each day. Over time he develops a gift for reading white people and then knowing how to best entertain them, especially his father. His skills land him in the Big House where he ultimately ends up working as his (white) brother’s personal servant. But Hiram wants more, and he’s determined to unshackle himself from the dying tobacco fields of Virginia no matter the cost. What he doesn’t realize yet (but soon will) is that freedom will cost him everything.
You know when you start a super popular book and you think to yourself, this thing CAN’T POSSIBLY live up to all the hype? Yeah well, that’s what I was thinking when I started reading this one, but I ended up falling IN LOVE with The Water Dancer.
The writing is exquisite, the characters are beautifully developed, but the story itself—the meticulous and magical development of time and place—blew me away. I was transported, bearing witness, standing right there with those enslaved mothers who were sold and separated from their sons, with the brothers and sisters murdered at the whim of their masters.
The Water Dancer broke my heart, but, incredibly, it was still an uplifting story. I finished the book feeling hopeful that good can eventually win. Even when the world is so bleak, you have to keep on fighting. I’m giving this one ALL THE STARS.
Thank you to Net Galley and One World for the ARC.