The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Oprah’s new book club selection, The Underground Railroad, imagines a real railroad, with steam locomotives pulling box cars along underground steel tracks. Not intrigued yet? Well, know that Oprah picked this book for a reason – its one of the best historical fiction books to come around in a while.
Cora, the main character, is enslaved on a plantation in Georgia. She and the other plantation slaves face horror after horror – both mental and physical. Long set on what she sees is her place in the world, she is not looking for change and hopes only to survive. But, Caesar, another slave, tempts her with a way out. He tells her of an underground railroad that will take her north to freedom.
Up to this point, the narrative may sound familiar. But, Whitehead transforms the accepted underground railroad into a steam driven machine, a series of tunnels, and quirky engineers.
Cora and Caesar escape on the railroad to South Carolina, a place with more liberal attitudes toward black people. Tempted to remain, Cora uncovers sinister doings and she escapes once again. The reader follows Cora through North Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana. All along her route, she is chased by a horrific slave catcher named Ridgeway.
A seemingly utopian community welcomes Cora in Indiana, but the troubles do not stop there.
Whitehead takes the reader along Cora’s perilous journey through the tunnels, on the run from Ridgeway, and allows her find, and lose, love.
Part myth, part fact, this is the book of the summer for anyone with a passion for historical fiction. Really, for anyone!