the next good book

Underground Railroad

By Colson Whitehead


306 pages

What’s it about? Colson Whitehead examines slavery in America through the eyes of Cora, a 16 or 17 year-old slave girl working on a plantation in Georgia.  Her life is unfathomable.As Cora said,“There was an order of misery, misery tucked inside miseries, and you were meant to keep track.”Cora eventually escapes using an actual underground railroad and we follow her journey through the course of the novel.   Whitehead’s writing has a magical bent to it and this lends itself well to telling Cora’s tale.The novel goes back and forth in time and shows many different viewpoints, from the slave catcher to those that are hunted. What did it make me think about? I can’t imagine anyone reading this novel and not feeling the  horror of what people are capable of doing to each other. Should I read it? Yes.  Somehow Whitehead’s use of magical realism lends itself to this story in a way that makes the novel both powerful and unique. Quote- “If niggers were supposed to have their freedom, they wouldn’t be in chains. If the red man was supposed to keep hold of his land, it’d still be his. If the white man wasn’t destined to take this new world, he wouldn’t own it now. ​     Here was the true great spirit, the divine thread connecting all human endeavor- if you can keep it, it is yours.  Your property, slave or continent.  The American imperative.

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