I have spent these last two days completely enveloped in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer. I started reading it yesterday morning and finished it tonight. It’s left me with such a feeling–a feeling I’ve only had three other times after finishing a book–that I wanted to put it down in words before the feeling left me again.
To say I read the book would be misleading. Instead, it would be more accurate to say that the Book transported me. It took me out of my body and put me in Virginia. When I finished the last sentence and looked up, I realized that I was not in Virginia but in California, and I tell you it is quite a bit maddening to not be where you just were.
I have been a Conductor; I have been touched by the lives and stories of people who lived long ago or who were merely the images inside the mind of a man from my time. Whether the former or the latter, I cannot tell. They felt as real to me as my own family and friends. To call them characters would be to diminish their place in my heart.
Among all the emotions stirred up in me, the most overwhelming was nostalgia–the kind of nostalgia you can only feel after you have achieved some great age or experiences and memories of times long past and people long gone. This story felt like a memory I was having of my own time spent on a Virginia plantation. I have grown up in Virginia and I could taste the weather and see the moon as Mr. Coates described it. I remember that Virginia moon (I see it in my dreams).
When a story has done this to you, you are no longer the same. You have lived another life and been another person. You have gone beyond empathy and now remember what it is like to be a man named Hiram. You recall vividly your experiences of having everything ripped away from you and of the mark it left on your young soul. You weep for your torn heart. You weep again because the story has ended and you have been pulled back into your body.
The saddest part for me is not knowing when I will chance upon another book with this magnitude of power over storytelling. I ache to be Conducted again, but understand that it may be many years before the next Book finds me. It’s been eight whole years since the last one.
Mr. Coates is a masterful writer and this story is worthy of multiple readings. My only regret is not having took longer to read it; It ended far too soon.
Whatever shall I read next? Sigh.