The Underground Railroad (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah's Book Club) (Hardcover)
When I say I’m in love with this book, I mean that Colson Whitehead has wrung more emotion from me than I had thought possible to give. Cora, a slave born and raised on a plantation in Georgia, runs away to find freedom following the path so many have taken: the Underground Railroad. Here the Underground Railroad is an actual railroad, built by the slaves seeking a new life and the free men and women who have the strength and courage to risk their lives helping others. Cora’s journey is anything but straightforward, with many twists and turns, her every step dogged by the slave catcher set to retrieve her. The writing is extraordinary, lines jumping off the page with weight and significance, settling inside you to be digested slowly and sometimes painfully. The meaning of true freedom is tested, and the conception of our American heritage torn open to be examined in the harsh light of day. Cora’s story is magnificent not only for her unique strength, but Whitehead weaves her into the whole of history, unfolding the power of shared experience. The journey is heart-breaking, inspiring and reveals what the human race is capable of, for good and for evil. Nothing is held back, and you will certainly leave this book changed.— Jax
September 2016 Indie Next List
“Whitehead's new novel is much more than the story of a runaway slave, Cora, who fights her way to the North; it is also a phantasmagorical look at race in America. In this instance the railroad is literal -- a train roaring through tunnels constructed like a subway, leading Cora to several unlikely destinations. Like the travels of Gulliver, each of Cora's stops on the railroad is a different version of America, displaying the varied ways in which Americans view race and manifest destiny. With exquisite prose, Colson digs deep into the troubled heart of America, exposing prejudice, tolerance, hatred, violence, and love as readers stop at each distinct station. Cora is a hero for the ages, and Whitehead is a writer who can guide us, like a station master, into the light. This is a fantastic novel.”
— William Carl (E), Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA
The National Book Award Winner and #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood--where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned--Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor--engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver's Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey--hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
About the Author
Colson Whitehead is the New York Times bestselling author of The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and one collection of essays, The Colossus of New York. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, he lives in New York City.