2018 Jun 15
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish 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 and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
Colson Whitehead’s latest novel rapidly rose through the ranks of bestseller hits and has since won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and several other awards! His work entails a brutal depiction of slavery in America, mostly through Cora’s eyes, but with an imaginative twist. Whitehead takes a more literal approach to the figurative Underground Railroads consisting of secret networks of activists that would aid slaves in escaping.
The novel focuses on Cora’s life on the run, fueled by her anger at her mother’s supposed abandonment and her own impressive need to survive. Passing from state to state using the underground railroad, each is as horrific and inhuman as the last with the obsessive slave catcher, Arnold Ridgeway, hot on her heels.
The Underground Railroad is best described as an acquired taste.The author’s choice of narrating in third person leaves readers struggling to connect to and understand our heroine. Yet the novel is wildly imaginative with a haphazard pace, giving readers a devastating retelling of America’s oppressive history of slavery.