Interest Level: Adult
Intense. Sad. Overwhelming. Cruel. These are the words that come to mind when describing The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Colson Whitehead.
The story follows Cora, a slave in the deep south. Woven throughout her story are the stories of her mother, grandmother, and other characters in the novel. Colson Whitehead does a marvelous job of weaving these stories together into a seamless tale.
The novel’s central focus is on Cora and her journey north on the underground railroad. She is first approached about this journey by Caesar, another slave on the plantation. It wasn’t until her master died and his brother took over the farm that she even considered running away.
Cora and Caesar take off together and make it to Charleston, S.C. There they become comfortable with life as freed blacks. That is, until they are discovered. Cora is being hunted by Ridgeway, a slave catcher out for revenge & vindication. He had attempted to hunt down Cora’s mother when she run away but never found her. He is driven by hate and a need to clear his name.
When writing these posts, I always struggle with exactly how much of the story to share. I don’t want to give away too many details and spoil the emotion that will inevitably come along with the first time you read this. But I do feel that I must share some serious concerns with you. Please forgive me if you feel as though I have ruined the storyline for you.
*This book is written in vivid detail. There are scenes of rape, torture, and murder that are described. Corpses hang along roads with genitals cut off. A slave is tortured & burned on the front lawn of his master’s house while he hosts a luncheon!
*As a history teacher, I was annoyed that Whitehead chose to make the underground a real railroad underground. As a literary lover, I can appreciate the attempt to change it up a bit and be more creative.
Overall, this book was hard to read and the ending was disappointing. I actually listened to it as an audiobook and that may have made getting through it even more difficult. It’s one thing to read something so intense to yourself; it’s another to have it read to you!
I would not suggest letting younger readers read this book. It is definitely for mature audiences only!