Colson Whitehead is garnering well-deserved kudos for this terrific work of historical fiction about a runaway slave’s odyssey via the Underground Railroad. Cora is a young slave living with few friends and no family on an antebellum Georgia cotton plantation. When Caesar arrives, it doesn’t take him long to peg Cora as a survivor and the perfect partner to make an escape to a better life up north.
The book takes the form of a rail adventure, as the author imagines the Underground Railroad as a literal subterranean rail line with trains, conductors, engineers, and stations. Once off the plantation, we follow Cora and Caesar on their epic adventure, including a pivotal stopover at an idyllic town in North Carolina that may not be what it seems. In pursuit is a ruthless slave catcher obsessed with capturing the pair. The Underground Railroad is an intense and richly rewarding book, with twists, turns, and terrible surprises, memorable characters, and masterful prose.