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Reviews of Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah

Wade in the Water

A Novel

by Nyani Nkrumah

Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah X
Wade in the Water by Nyani Nkrumah
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2024, 368 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

Resonant with the emotional urgency of Alice Walker's classic Meridian and the poignant charm of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, a gripping debut novel of female power and vulnerability, race, and class that explores the unlikely friendship between a precocious black girl and a mysterious white woman in a small Mississippi town in the early 1980s.

Set in 1982, in rural, racially divided Ricksville, Mississippi Wade in the Water tells the story of Ella, a black, unloved, precocious eleven-year-old, and Ms. St. James, a mysterious white woman from Princeton who appears in Ella's community to carry out some research. Soon, Ms. St. James befriends Ella, who is willing to risk everything to keep her new friend in a town that does not want her there. The relationship between Ella and Ms. St. James, at times loving and funny and other times tense and cautious, becomes more fraught and complex as Ella unwittingly pushes at Ms. St. James's carefully constructed boundaries that guard a complicated past, and dangerous secrets that could have devastating consequences.

Told in two voices, Ella's and Ms. St. James's, and set around richly developed characters, this riveting, page turning coming of age story will keep readers entranced until the last shocking revelation.

Part 1

Chapter 1

Ricksville, Mississippi, Summer 1982

There weren't many people I loved when I was eleven, but I loved Mr. Macabe. I knew he couldn't be my daddy because he was too old, but I always thought of him as my granddad even though I'd never had one. Mr. Macabe said his blindness gave him the second sight. That he could see deep into souls. I didn't believe him one lick.

"I go to Sunday school," I would say sharply to him, "only God sees into souls."

He would grin back at me, his partly toothless smile reminding me of my seven-year-old cousin, Devin.

I ran all the way down Ricksville Road to get to Mr. Macabe's house at number 2, feeling the last memories of school fade with every step I took. I wanted to keep that feeling going all day, so I dawdled by Cammy's house, wishing she hadn't gone away to her father's somewhere up in Indian Reserve country, and dodged around that half-naked crazy Sammy who shouted obscenities at anyone who came within his sight.

Finally, I was at Mr. ...

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Reviews

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BookBrowse

A must read for all! (Mary O). I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially for someone looking to gain perspective on racial inequities and the civil rights movement (Kylie W). I recommend this book to anyone seeking to broaden their understanding of our country's racial history (Marian Y). This would be an excellent book to discuss at book clubs (Jessica F). While the book features a pre-teen protagonist, due to some of the content in the book, I believe it is best suited to an older teen/adult audience with trigger warnings for abuse (Marian Y)...continued

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Ella's a ray of sunshine determined to bust through the murkiness that surrounds her, a fighter who clings to God's promises and refuses to accept she's invaluable. She is a marvel and an inspiration.

The New York Times Book Review
The novel works best as a bildungsroman, with Nkrumah elevating a young girl's struggles with intense colorism, the traumas of abuse and betrayal and her eventual ability to love herself.

The New Yorker
Nkrumah resists giving her two main characters a predictable relationship, and her story uncloaks heroes in marvelously unexpected places.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The author is supremely gifted at bringing both her characters and their close-knit rural town to life. Readers will eagerly await more from this writer.

Library Journal
With expert character development, Nkrumah gives memorable voice to a young woman struggling to overcome familial abuse and find her way in the world. For readers who enjoyed Alice Walker's Meridian and Jas Hammonds's YA novel We Deserve Monuments.

Reader Reviews

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 ...   Read More
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 ...   Read More
Mary O. (Boston, MA)

Stunning
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 ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Freedom Summer Murders

Missing Persons Poster In Nyani Nkrumah's novel Wade in the Water, set in the early 1980s, one character's father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan who participated in the (real-life) murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner on June 21, 1964.

The 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, purportedly guaranteed Blacks the right to vote. The amendment, however, also gave states the ability to determine voter eligibility, and state governments in the Deep South passed laws that disenfranchised its Black residents, such as adding literacy requirements. In addition, acts of violence and intimidation by whites—particularly members of the Ku Klux Klan—physically kept Blacks from registering and casting their ballots. The campaign against ...

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Read-Alikes

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