Published by Doubleday on September 13th 2016
Buy on Amazon
This book had me thinking. There are books, I read and I know right away how I feel about them. There are books that are hard to get into at first and then they grab me, there are books that never grab me, and there are books that have me thinking long after I have turned the last page. The Underground Railroad is one of those books.
“White folk eat you up but sometimes colored folk eat you up, too.”
Cora is a young slave living on a Georgia Plantation. Her Mother has escaped and left Cora by herself. We see Cora trying to save her meager garden, we see her attacked, raped, beaten, whipped, and rejected by her peers sent to live in the Hob – a place for rejects and those with various afflictions.
Caesar is a male slave living on the same plantation. He has a plan for escape and sees something in Cora that tells him she would make a good escape partner. It takes some doing but the pair set out on foot and later via the Underground railroad.
This is where Whitehead takes some liberties with history. The underground railroad is a real railroad and as they travel they also experience things form other times – NO they do not time travel. The author has taken liberties. There is sterilization for females, a syphilis study done on male runaways (Tuskegee comes to mind).
All the while they are trying to get to freedom they are being hunted by a slave catcher (i.e. bounty hunter) who is hell bent on catching Cora. He was never able to catch her Mother and he is hellbent on finding Cora.
Cora and Caesar get separated and we see Cora being captured by the slave catcher only to once again get a sense of freedom and live for some time at a Utopian like farm.
This was an interesting book. I cant quite put my finger on what I liked most about it. This book is real. There really are no happily ever after for these characters. Survival and trying to survive is a theme. I did enjoy how the chapters are either places/locations in the book or characters in the book. We finally get to see what became of Cora’s Mother. We get the perspective of other characters.
This is definitely a great book club book. It’s one that stayed with me. There is so much that can be discussed. I wonder if some will find the Author’s taking liberty with history. I did not. I found it really worked in this book.Overall, a very enjoyable read.