Holy Cow – Colin Whitehead’s book Underground Railroad is just stunning. The story, the writing, and the characters. Totally worthy of Pulitzer Prize nomination and many awards for 2016. Whitehead reimagines the underground railroad as a real train. Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Caesar compels her to take a risk and join him for escape. Oh, but plans go awry. Now they are hunted. There’s a secret network of tracks and tunnels. We follow Cora and Caesar as they navigate the system and you root for them all the way. But it’s tough.
First stop is South Carolina. Seemingly idyllic, but hiding slave catchers and others blocking true freedom. Cora is so strong and her odyssey is a journey through time and space. From the cover – Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America. 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.
I was transfixed reading this book. It will break your heart and also strengthen your resolve in rooting for Cora. Just knowing what her grandmother went through, and her mother, and then her. Wow – so strong and vital, and smart, and good, and worthy of a chance. Whitehead’s writing is lovely. I enjoyed his book Sag Harbor, and now in this book he is just better and stronger. There is no agenda. Just darn good writing and a story for the ages.