The Underground Railroad (Hardcover)

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A tremendously imaginative historical novel from one of America's best young authors. THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD is an escaped slave narrative that doubles as a true American epic, the continuing origin story of Africans in America. The major conceit, though, that sets this work apart--a surprisingly obvious twist that allows this novel to transcend and become something else entirely--is that the titular network of slave emancipation, is a literal railroad. Sounds simple, but it is in fact a profound literary device. And, interestingly, as a literal railroad, Whitehead is able to use the UGRR as a much more powerful metaphor for the black American odyssey. The story centers around Cora, a resourceful and determined runaway slave and all the people, both righteous and wicked, whom she encounters on her misadventures toward the North. Despite the fantastical UGRR, the rest of Whitehead's portrayal of Southern slavery is unvarnished, graphically violent that works as a critique of contemporary race relations as well as an indictment of the duplicitous "American imperative" that has allowed for slavery, brutality and genocide in the name of freedom, progress and purity throughout our country's history. This is a perfectly paced, cut-gem of a novel. Nothing is out of place. There are echoes of everything from GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, to INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL, to THE LOTTERY, and more that only serve to heighten the near-mythic quality of this work of fiction. It's astounding how good this book is. I can't say enough about it. So far, the best novel of 2016 that I've read.

— From Keaton recommends...


Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood--where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned--Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor--engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver's Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey--hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. 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.

About the Author

Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award, and named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, as well as The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York. He is also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a recipient of the MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships. He lives in New York City.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780385542364
ISBN-10: 0385542364
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2016
Pages: 320
Language: English