The Water Dancer. Finished 2-27-20, fiction, 3.5/5 stars, 403 pages, pub. 2019
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 utopic 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. from Goodreads
Hiram was born into slavery. He was known for his remarkable memory and that plus the fact that his master was also his father moved him from the fields to the big house and eventual right hand man to his half brother. After an accident when a special gift saves Hiram’s life his journey with the Underground begins.
There are many things I liked about this slave narrative, but I’m in the minority of readers who was underwhelmed. I thought his time with the Underground was fascinating as there were so many people at cross purposes that it showed some of the dysfunction. I liked his journey from South to North to home again, the full circle of the story. The slave families being split apart as plantations lost their luster was heartbreaking. But, for some reason, Hiram’s special gift didn’t gel with the rest of the story for me.
I missed book club last month so I may have been swayed by the people who loved it, but since I wasn’t I’ll just have to chalk it up to not quite living up to the hype for me.