Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad
Title: The Underground Railroad
Author: Colson Whitehead
Publication Date: 8/2/2016
Pages: 306
How I Found It: It's the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner!
Date Completed: 6/19/7

Summary: When things shift in an even worse direction on her Georgia plantation, Cora sees her chance to run. She finds herself on a long, difficult journey to freedom.

What I Thought: I had high expectations going into this book. The Pulitzer Prize and Oprah's Book Club? It's hard not to expect a lot. 

I'm happy to say it more than lived up to my high expectations. It's a beautiful, heart-breaking book. Whitehead is a wonderful writer. I know some have said they would have preferred the book to be written in first person as they felt the third person narration made the characters feel distant. I disagree. I prefer third person narration and, in this case, it made the interjected chapters about other characters feel more in line with the rest of the book. 

I have also seen people debate the manifestation of the Underground Railroad as a physical thing. It adds an element of magical realism, although there is certainly no magic elsewhere in the story. I think Whitehead's choice to do that gave the story a fresh, unique perspective without detracting at all from the hardships of traveling the real Underground Railroad. He still portrayed the intense dangers and the necessary reliance on white people to assist in the travels. That element - forced reliance - is shown so poignantly here. 

It's a sad book, no doubt. But it's powerful and well worth reading. I appreciated the mix of hope and realism, even at the end of the story. Definitely pick this one up if you have a chance. It's heavy and difficult from a content perspective, but it's a quick read. Well worth your time. This is the type of novel I would like to see win the Pulitzer every year. 

Quote I Loved: "Truth was a changing display in a shop window, manipulated by hands when you weren't looking, alluring and ever out of reach."

Rating: ★★★★★
Will I Re-Read: Yes.
If You Liked This, Try: Wench / Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy / March

A Reduced Review: Poignant, beautiful, heart-breaking. This look at the Underground Railroad is well deserving of its Pulitzer Prize. 

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