Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, 306 pages.

Whitehead won the Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and a host of other prizes for this excellent novel. Cora's grandmother ended up on the Randall plantation in Georgia after being kidnapped, and bought and sold. She lives a horrific existence. Her daughter Mabel manages to escape from captivity when Cora is about eleven, but Cora is left to fend for herself and she can not forgive her mother for leaving her behind.
Whitehead, an author who seems to be able to tell an engaging and readable story on any subject, does not falter when the subject is the something as horrific as slavery. He does not hide the larger tale by focusing on his characters and their small part in history. In fact he is at his most compelling in this amazing book when he casually conveys the vastness of the horror and cruelty suffered by so many as they form the backdrop in the circles Cora travels through. Each station on the railroad is a different place and time in this warped America, and at each station Cora must witness some fresh hell as it is visited upon her or on someone she knows. I imagine that this is a book that the reader will need to return to again and again.

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