Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead ------------------ 4 Stars

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Underground Railroad has been on my "to read" list for a while. Happy I could finally get to it in the past couple of weeks as I really enjoyed the story.

Written as historical fiction, this book does an excellent job depicting the terrors of slavery and the yearning to escape. It also includes the heartless slave catchers who go across the country working to return escaped slaves to their owners. The twist in this book is that the underground railroad is an actual railroad that is kept up by slaves and allies of working to support their freedom. While this difference one could assume would be a major plot point, it isn't. It's mentioned matter of factly and not dwelled upon.

The heart of the book is really about one character and her life as a slave and efforts to escape and go North. I really enjoyed her story and how the author brings to together storylines of people related to her. Using a popular trick, the author does jump around a few times to add a greater back story about characters. Not always in a sequential timeline, it was enjoyable to get a bit of history on some of the character that were less rounded out. 

At the heart of the books is an adventure story about a strong willed slave who is seeking a new life. The books is well written but her story of perseverance and work ethic is supreme. The author also provides an accurate and detailed account of the horrors of slavery. This includes specifics about the slave trade, the back breaking labor required of each slave, and the constant mistreatment from the slave master.

Overall, this is a really strong book (and well deserving of its awards). The pace is natural and progressive and the characters are fascinating. It's truly a well told story that keeps the reader engaged at all points, clearly rooting for the hope and life of the main character. I highly recommend!


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