The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, 306 pages
Cora was born into slavery on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Her mother ran away from the plantation when Cora was just 10, and became famous among the slaves there as being the only one to successfully escape. Ten years later, another slave approaches Cora and asks her to flee with him using the Underground Railroad (ingeniously reimagined here as an actual railroad that runs under the ground), beginning a flight for freedom that takes Cora from state to state, where the attitude toward former slaves varies widely depending on the local culture.
In this fantastic book, Whitehead weaves a story that is so incredibly real, despite the obvious fictions (his description of the underground railroad stations are so well done that readers will have themselves double-checking their history books to make sure they didn't somehow miss something). Cora's inner monologue is filled with doubts, fears, and regrets so well described that she becomes a real person to the reader. It's not a particularly cheerful book, but wow, is it a great one.