The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead


Wow! There are a few books I’ve read that deserve their own category, their own frame of reference or comparison. They’re the ones that manage to blend consequence and narrative and point of view and voice to bestow on the reader a story that’s greater than the sum of its parts. And that happens because of the talents–researching, writing, listening, revising–and perspectives of the author. This is one of those.

Do you know about slavery? You’ll learn–you’ll FEEL–much more about it while you’re reading this book, and afterward, the knowledge will stick with you. Not slavery as some abstract bad thing that bad guys did in the early centuries of this country, but as a concrete abomination, a shockingly cruel crime against real people whose only sin was being born a different color in a far-off place.

The author’s characters are memorable and tend to be multi-dimensional. But the devilish ones are numerous. They’re a fact of life. They’re constantly hovering and haunting. There are angels here, too, though. And all the in-betweens, those who are just trying to survive.

I won’t get into spoiler territory, but there are some speculative elements in the book, which only made it fresher for me.

This story should be recommended reading for everyone old enough to absorb its graphic portrayal of the times without having nightmares. There are lessons here. And for our political leaders, and those citizens who believe we should maintain statues and other tributes to a war that was fought for the foulest of notions, that we should return to the good old days, it should be required.

(Review on Goodreads)

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