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What readers think of Wade in the Water, plus links to write your own review.

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Wade in the Water

A Novel

by Nyani Nkrumah

Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah X
Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 320 pages

    Jan 2024, 368 pages


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There are currently 24 reader reviews for Wade in the Water
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Tushar Makwana

Good Book
Excellent Book.
Wendy P. (Jourdanton, TX)

Impressive Debut
This book did take a while for me to be invested -- about a quarter of the way through, but once I did I was impressed by what a sympathetic character Ella was. A moving coming of age story that handles tough topics like racism, prejudice, color lines and sexual abuse. A nice touch was we also saw the point of view of Ms. St. James, which gave the narrative an added depth.
Elizabeth L. (Langhorne, PA)

Engaging and heartfelt
The story of Miss St. James and Ella will stay with me for a long time. I found it to be an easy but thought provoking read, and I could not wait to pick it up each day. Katherine's story is so unfamiliar to me, and I found it hard to believe that it happened between the late 50's to 1983. Yet, I was intrigued by the challenges she faced growing up in the South and then reconciling that upbringing with what she learned in Princeton. Her friendship with Ella was an important part of the story, but I felt that Ella stole the show. While my heart broke for Ella because of the abuse she endured, deep down I knew she would find her way. I wanted to know more about where her road leads beyond these pages. I hope they make it into a movie or mini-series.
Melanie B. (Desoto, TX)

We Can't Erase The Past
This novel was a well-written, bittersweet story of how decades-old racism and colorism continue to impact the lives of black people and white people in their small Southern community. The parallel experiences of Ella and Kate and their resulting pain related to skin color and perceptions of racial inferiority highlight the overall theme of darkness and light. This novel exposes the emotional and physical impact of racial hatred starting with the secrets and lies of slavery to the Jim Crow Era and beyond. Building on its theme of the black and white experience in a small Southern town, the author skillfully weaves a riveting story around the ancient wisdom that what is done in the dark will be brought to light.
Janet H. (Long Beach, CA)

A Unique story
Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah is not an easy book to read, despite excellent writing, unique characters and a well known piece of US history. It was a painful discussion of racism. It was a peek into a family that treated their children to violence and attempts at incest. I wanted to put it down, unread, but I did like the main character and hoped all would somehow turn out well for her. Unfortunately, it is not a book I can recommend to my book clubs or friends.
Vicki C. (Franklin, TN)

Wade in the Water
I found this to be a quick and enjoyable read. Ella was a delightful young girl full of hope in spite of a very difficult home life. She was fortunate to have two older men to talk to who, I think, helped her to maintain her faith and her positive outlook during the most difficult of times. She had her hopes dashed more than once but most significantly in the time frame written about by a white woman who befriended her and then who failed her. Fortunately, she had a strength I thought unusual in such a young girl and that, combined with her Faith, saw her through the difficult times. Having spent a great deal of my youth growing up in the Deep South in the sixties, the story line itself was very familiar to me and, I think, fairly presented. I definitely recommend this book.
Darlene B. (New Castle, PA)

It All Begins With Self- Love...
I turned the final pages of this novel, 'Wade in the Water', several days ago and I find that I can't stop thinking about the story. The novel is set mainly in Ricksville, Mississippi in 1982. There are two narrators: Ella, an 11-year-old black girl and Katherine, a white graduate student who attends Princeton University in New Jersey but is in Mississippi to work on her master's thesis. Although the bulk of the story takes place in 1982, the narrative does periodically go back to the summer of 1964, often referred to as Freedom Summer which was marked by huge protests after three civil rights workers who were in Mississippi to help register black people to vote, were found murdered. Freedom Summer is the series of events which ties the present to the past in this novel and becomes part of the bond between Ella and Katherine.

Although this novel continues to occupy my thoughts, I have to be clear that it is because of Ella. She is a character who immediately captured my heart. She is fiercely intelligent, curious, gives new meaning to the idea of having a close and personal relationship with her God and most of all, she has a magnificent, beautiful spirit. There are some hard themes in this book and Ella endures things which, in a perfect world, no child would even be aware of; but Ella is the character who kept me turning the pages. I was so invested in this child that I needed to know that she would be okay in the end.

I think perhaps the author was a bit too ambitious in this novel. I found that I could not really understand Katherine St. James's motivation for what she was doing. It was clear that she had also experienced some trauma in her life and it was obvious that she had devised a plan as to why she was returning to Mississippi. She was clever and cunning. I just couldn't get at what she was hoping to accomplish with her research. Justification? Rationalization? I have no idea and eventually, I ended up not caring about her . She became almost a caricature. Ella was the star of this novel and if you want a reminder of the enormity of the human spirit, you should definitely read this book.
Susan P. (Boston, MA)

Wade in the Water
A racist white family in 1960s Mississippi (where the civil rights students were killed) and a Black family the next town over in the 1980s. The entitled daughter of the white family seemingly escapes her racist legacy and in the 1980s is a graduate student at Princeton. She moves temporarily to live in the Black community to do research for her thesis. She befriends a smart Black girl ignored by her parents, but the community doesn't trust her. But she seems so sincere and likeable. A good, very readable, empathetic story for those who know they don't know enough about the South and want a different perspective.
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Beyond the Book:
  The Freedom Summer Murders

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