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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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Jessica F. (Revere, MA)

Page Turner
This book was remarkable! The characters were well developed with troubled back stories and promising futures.
Ella, a sassy and witty child, coupled with Miss St. James, a woman who is trying to make a wrong, right make quite the duo.
The novel takes you on an emotional roller coaster ~ moments of laughter, sadness, frustration, excitement, fear, and suspense.
This would be an excellent book to discuss at book clubs.
Wade In the Water is a real page turner until the very end!
Tracey S. (Largo, FL)

Interesting Relationship
This is a story of a relationship that develops between Ella, an 11 yr old African American girl and Ms. St. James, a young white woman from Princeton, who came to Mississippi to write about racism. I had a hard time getting into it, but it finally grabbed my attention. The relationship between Ella and Ms. St. James was sometimes easy, but other times it was difficult for them. The book gave you the point of view from both females. I think it would be a great discussion book.
Power Reviewer
Mary O. (Boston, MA)

Rarely do you pick up a book that haunts you long past the last page. My favorite books are always debut novels and this is oneof the best. It confronts race, boundaries and relationships in a page turner. A must read for all!
Kylie W. (Charleston, SC)

Great book!
I was so incredibly impressed by this book! I would say it is the best story I have received from BookBrowse so far. I was engaged from the very beginning, and read through it much quicker than I typically do with this genre. The dichotomy between the two characters and their life experiences develops a deep narrative that has you looking at everything from multiple points of view. The leading character, Ella, is so incredibly lovable and intelligent, and had me rooting for her the whole way through. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially for someone looking to gain perspective on racial inequities and the civil rights movement.
Mary W. (Altadena, CA)

A Heart Bursting for Love
The first person we meet is a child named Ella. She is a child unloved by a mother and a cruel stepfather. Within the family Ella is made to feel she is invisible and not worth belonging in this family. Ella's skin may be black but her heart is as real as Scout's in the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird." She is a very strong character and is equal to the second protagonist, Ms. James. Miss James also suffers through life because of the color of her skin. She is white but schooled by family to hate those considered beneath them, black people. This is a heart wrenching story that should be read by all. We need reminders that there is more to people than the color of their skin and going deeper getting to know what is in the heart will help us appreciate people for who they really are.
Susan B. (Hahira, GA)

Wade in the Water
When I read the title, I immediately thought of Alvin Ailey..
..but having now read this marvelous first novel by an up and coming star..I have a totally different prospective..
A captivating and vivid portrait of our turbulent past, present, and characters that will stay with you. Opening in the summer of 1982, deep in Mississippi, you meet 11 year old Ella, aware but still naive to the world outside her fairly insular black community. Jump back to 1955,
Philadelphia, Mississippi and meet Kate, a privileged white girl living a totally different lifestyle. We watch as the years progress through the turbulent 60s and Kate's prejudices grow as she ages and is influenced by her bigoted father and community. We are reminded of the horrific news that greeted us too many times on the news depending on where in this country you lived.
By the 80s these two will cross paths. Ella, no stranger to prejudice within her own family and community combined with her community elders' mutual distrust of the opposite race comes face to face with a thoroughly reinvented Kate. Now known as Katherine, perhaps trying to atone for the sins of the past, she has the temerity to enter Ella's world. Posing as a researcher, PhD candidate, then as teacher and mentor, she must also confront her well hidden demons. This is also a coming of age story in many ways as Ella's tries to navigate her family and her own community as her awareness grows as to her role in life.
Vivid characters and voices abound. Our past is not always so distant.
The truth will always surface and how we handle it helps us to grow,
The author knows these voices. Her characters leap off the page, her descriptions are straight out of newsreel, newspapers,and are very cinematic. I could not put this down once I started. As ugly as our past was, it's important to be reminded.
Power Reviewer
Betty T. (Warner Robins, GA)

A Phenomenal Debut
I was immediately drawn into this story of a relationship that develops between Ms. St. James, a white woman from Princeton, and Ella, a precocious 11-year-old Black girl.

It is hard to believe that this is Nkrumah's debut novel. The writing flows smoothly and paints a picture of the rural segregated community of Ricksville, Mississippi. The characters are authentic, and their emotions relatable.

Set in 1982, Ms. St. James rents a house on the same street where Ella lives. This piques people's curiosity since she is the only white person on the street. She has come to Ricksville to do research for her thesis on the civil rights movement. Soon, Ms. St. James befriends Ella who has always felt she was not accepted by others because she has a different daddy than that of her siblings, and she has notably darker skin.

Alternating with the 1982 timeline are flashbacks to Ms. St. James' childhood in the 60s in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was a childhood where racism was acceptable, where it was beaten into her. No matter how much she tries to distance herself from it, it is always lurking in the shadows.

The relationship between Ella and Ms. St. James is extremely complex. There are times that my heart swelled with love that Ella, so starved for attention and love, thought she was getting from Ms. St. James. But at other times, Ella was unknowingly pushing St. James closer and closer to losing control of the façade she lived behind, closer to revealing a secret that she must keep hidden.

The story is uncomfortably raw at times as the atrocities of the Jim Crow South are revisited. A question asked by the author is not only how the civil rights movement changed Black society but also how it changed white society.

There are several well-developed characters throughout the book. Mr. Macabe, who is blind, says he cannot see the color of one's skin. He says that he classifies as good, evil, or somewhere in between. There are characters here that fall into all those categories.

There is a shocking reveal near the end that I should have caught but I was just too absorbed in the story to figure it out.

Thank you to HarperCollins and BookBrowse for the advance copy of the book. These opinions are entirely my own.
Beth Watson

Impressive Debut!
I found myself surprised that this is the author's debut novel. An old story told in a new way that made me care very much for the characters. I love stories that feature a precocious old-soul child, and Ella is one of the best examples in quite a while. I was a young teen in Atlanta during the early 1960s, and the Civil Rights movement made a tremendous impression on me. Wade in the Water took me back there, made me think, and stayed with me long after I turned the last page. Highly recommend!
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