Coates’ first work of fiction centers on Hiram Walker. His mother is a slave and his father is the master of a tobacco plantation in Virginia. His mother disappears when Hiram is a young boy, and he is then cared for by Thena, an old slave whose children have all been sold off. As he gets older, Hiram is a servant to his half brother, Maynard, the son of his father and the father’s wife. Eventually it becomes evident that Hiram has a “gift” and because of this, he becomes part of the underground railroad.
I’m not sure why I finished The Water Dancer. It was confusing, the sentences sometimes made no sense, and Coates’ characterization of Hiram was flat. I think because I admired the author’s first book, Between the World and Me, I thought The Water Dancer would get better. It never did.