The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Colton Whitehead the underground railroad book review

I loved the book The Underground Railroad.  I read it before it won the National Book Award and The Pulitzer Prize! It is an eye-opening, profound, and wonderful book that I feel should be compulsory reading in every high school across the country. The events depicted are so pertinent to today’s society and are a reminder of the brutal history of this country.

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The Underground Railroad begins with Cora, an orphaned slave from a Georgia Plantation decides to follow in her mother’s footsteps and escape the bonds of slavery. The book follows Cora on her journey through the Underground Railroad that has been imagined into a rickety connection of tracks running beneath the ground.

At each stop along the journey, the stations bring the feeling of a different time in history (like Germany during the second world war). I found myself completely immersed in the story and it was shocking each time I re-entered reality. Every posting for a runaway slave, with the exception of the final one, is a real “advertisement” placed in a paper. These are vivid reminders that despite the surreal twist, this book is based on a very real, very violent history. I read this book and cheered for Cora and cried along with her.

Cora didn’t know what optimistic meant. She asked the other girls that night if they were familiar with the word. None of them had heard it before. She decided that it meant trying.”  ― Colson WhiteheadThe Underground Railroad

I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Whitehead speak about the book and he was a brilliant speaker. He was able to relate the horrific past of the United States to everyone  without ever preaching. The story itself is heart-wrenching and brilliant. I cannot say enough wonderful things about this book to do it justice. Sit, read and change your way of viewing the world.

What book have you read that has changed your world view?

The Underground Railroad by Colson WhiteheadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Published by Doubleday Books on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Literary, African American, General
Pages: 306
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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.

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. 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.

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.