The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish 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...

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Title:The Underground Railroad
Author:Colson Whitehead
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Underground Railroad Reviews

  • Elyse Walters

    I came to this book with some resistance, regardless of it being the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2017.

    I've owned the physical book since last year. It kept being easier to read something else.

    I felt it was my duty to read this book.

    But wait.....

    Haven't I done my duty?

    I've read three James Baldwin books 'this' year....I've seen the movie "12 Years a Slave", and "Birth of a Nation".

    I've read "Beloved" by Toni Morrison, "The Kitchen House", by Kathleen Grissom, "Between The World And Me", by Ta-Neh

    I came to this book with some resistance, regardless of it being the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2017.

    I've owned the physical book since last year. It kept being easier to read something else.

    I felt it was my duty to read this book.

    But wait.....

    Haven't I done my duty?

    I've read three James Baldwin books 'this' year....I've seen the movie "12 Years a Slave", and "Birth of a Nation".

    I've read "Beloved" by Toni Morrison, "The Kitchen House", by Kathleen Grissom, "Between The World And Me", by Ta-Nehisi Coates, etc.

    Still needed to do my duty!!!

    My expectations going into this book were LOW. I saw more 3-stars and 'under' until 'recently'. The very first few reviews I saw last year had 'negative' things to say about this book. I thought .... "great, one less painful book for me to experience"!

    And then......something happened- I read a VERY MOVING 5 star review by *Julie

    Christine Johnson*......that seriously stayed with me. I knew it was time to read this book soon.

    STILL with some resistance ---BUT...I knew I believed whole heartedly in everything I read in Julie's review. This was a case where reading reviews- low & high... WAS SUPPORTIVE to me BEFORE I read the book. NONE of the reviews spoiled my own reading.

    I HIGHLY-HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING MANY REVIEWS- HIGH - LOW- MIDDLE - and DNF....if on the fence about reading "The Underground Railroad".

    Given my expectations started out LOW .. I was pleasantly happy to discover I enjoyed reading this book much more than I thought. At the same time, I tend to agree with some of the low reviews, and some of the high reviews.

    In Navidad Thelamour's review, she says: "The novel would've been better served being written in first person, for Cora's chapters at the 'very' least". I AGREE WITH HER!! ......I think - as the reader - we might have FELT what she was experiencing MUCH MORE ... if we felt as if she were speaking to us. It might have been even 'more' unbearable to read though.

    I was especially inspired by Poingu's review.

    She says: "I finished utterly exhilarated. This novel is a triumphant act of imagination". I AGREE!!!!!

    However, Poingu goes on to mention something she did not like.

    Poingu says: "There were too many characters to superficially drawn; sometimes I felt there was too much narrative summary; the bad guys trended toward evil caricatures rather than multidimensional people; there was an odd distancing effect between the reader and any one character because there is so little offered of each characters interior thinking". I ALSO AGREE!!!!!!

    I could never have put that sentence together so eloquently as Poingu. - thank you, Poingu!

    I 'stopped ' trying to remember all the minor characters. There were TONS!!! Almost TOO MANY!

    However-like Poingu, .... SHE LOVED READING THIS BOOK. I did too!!! So, for me, I didn't worry about the minor flaws. Or all the minor characters . It was the greater context which I was taking in.

    I ended up being blown away by the powerful allegory of the Underground Railroad... the crafting of this story played with 'my imagination'.

    Very clever creative structure. We get to keep dancing in imaginary visuals of being - on a train - a real train with conductors- but then are jolted by horrifying beatings, lynchings staged like a theater production, rapes, and brutal truths from state to state . Everything about slavery was so terrifying--that by the end this novel, I was left with the incredible achievement "The Underground Railroad" is.

    Cora is on the run from Arnold Ridgeway - the master slave catcher ( she didn't know she was on the run when she first learned about FREE NORTH, that Caesar told her about). Things are not as easy as 'free'.

    From South Carolina, to North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, on to 'the north'....at every step of the way... there is terror, hatred, atrocity, gruesome repulsion.

    The descriptions are horrific. Its hard to be with SO MUCH VIOLENCE!

    However, the brutal honesty lights a fire in us. We DO NOT WANT TO EVER ALLOW HISTORY TO REPEAT ITSELF.... so yes, we I'm glad I read this book. Even with some minor flaws --- I can't give this novel less than 5 stars.

    I'm sad - sorry - angry and ashamed- for all the horrific sufferings in our past history over racial inequality!

    At the same time --I'm left with hope - strength- and our humanity.

    Brutal and Beautiful Book! .....I hope they make a movie.... I think the impact would be powerful.

    There are some great interviews of Colson Whitehead. He is such a humble and wonderful man! Worth looking up!

  • Will Byrnes

    In Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel,

    , he takes a figurative term and gives it a literal application. This

    posits a literal brick, steel, and steam system that transports fleeing slaves from southern captivity to what is hoped to be a form of freedom. This RR has actual station agents and train conductors. Most importantly, it has passengers.

    Image from Whitehead’s Twitter feed

    Our guide through this underworld is Cora, 17 when we meet her, a slave on the Randalls’ property, in Georgia. Encouraged to flee with him by fellow slave, Caesar, she demurs, fearing failure and dire circumstances. But when her situation at the property becomes too damaging to endure, she signs on.

    Throughout the tale, we get bits of backstory. We learn of Cora’s mother, a slave who had fled when Cora was 11, never to be seen or heard from again. We learn some details of slave life. That brutality was a central feature will come as no surprise to anyone, but some of the specifics of such an existence will be news to many of us.

    The book had a particularly long gestation.

    There is much here that hearkens back to literary classics. Cora might certainly feel a kinship with Jean Valjean of

    , escaping a wretched life, but pursued by a relentless, Javert-like slave catcher, Arnold Ridgeway. Ridgeway had been enraged for years that he’d failed to find and bring back Cora’s mother, Mabel, who had fled six years earlier. One might also think of stories like

    , in which each stop along the journey points out another form of madness.

    - image from the NY Times

    The route takes Cora from Georgia to what

    a relatively benign South Carolina, then on to North Carolina for some new forms of horror, and finally on to Indiana, which offers its own forms of misery. Whitehead is not shy about part of his plan.

    Whitehead was more interested in communicating the internal rather than external historical reality.

    Whitehead peppers Cora’s story with bizarre events, like regular public lynchings in one town, an early and bitingly grim version of public entertainment, reminiscent of feeding Christians to lions for the delight of the townspeople. A living history museum in which Cora plays the part of slaves through history in diverse tableaux makes your spidey senses wonder what might result.

    Whitehead took his inspiration from diverse sources. Cora spend a protracted time in an attic, terrified of being discovered, and with good reason, as public lynchings are regularly held right across the street in a public park. The inspiration for that was Harriet Jacobs’ autobiography,

    , in which Harriet hid for years in a crawl space, terrified of being captured.

    It would be a challenge to remain unmoved by Cora’s journey, and impossible to come away from reading this book without learning some things about the slave experience and the conditions that people treated as property endured.

    One may take issue with decisions made by this or that person in the story, but it is worth suspending a bit of disbelief to appreciate the journey on which Whitehead leads us. No one will force you to read

    , but choosing to do so would be an excellent expression of your freedom.

    Review posted – June 20, 2017

    Publication date – August 2, 2016

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    Links to the author’s

    and

    pages

    August 2, 2016 – NY Times -

    - by Jennifer Schuessler

    INTERVIEWS

    -----Oprah’s

    requires tolerating it having been broken down into very small chunks, each with a 15 second ad that repeats for each section, which is scream-inducing

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    - Bookpage.com – by Stephanie Harrison

    SONGS

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  • Angela M

    3.5 stars rounded up.

    This is a difficult book to read with the horrific treatment and gruesome punishments of African American slaves so much a part of the narrative, but it is essential that we read this and other books like it . We need these powerful, compelling and gut wrenching reminders of what life was like on a plantation in Georgia and other places in the South and what it might have been like to be a runaway. This story is told mainly from the perspective of a young slave woman named C

    3.5 stars rounded up.

    This is a difficult book to read with the horrific treatment and gruesome punishments of African American slaves so much a part of the narrative, but it is essential that we read this and other books like it . We need these powerful, compelling and gut wrenching reminders of what life was like on a plantation in Georgia and other places in the South and what it might have been like to be a runaway. This story is told mainly from the perspective of a young slave woman named Cora and the portrayal of her escape and journey toward freedom. I was also moved by the story of Cora's grandmother Ajarry, captured in Africa and transported to America. Cora's mother Mabel also has her story.

    Colson Whitehead imagines the The Underground Railroad as if it were an actual railroad with trains and conductors. While this work is a fictional representation of the time and place and does an excellent job of conveying the time and place and what seems like a genuine feeling of what it was like to be Cora, I have to admit I had some reservations about making it a real railroad. I felt like the creation of an actual railroad in a way diminishes the the true Underground Railroad whose strength was the people moving people to freedom not a railway but a network of routes and a group of people who didn't have a railroad to move them around . I'm sure there will be much discussion of this and I may be an outlier here.

    So for this and the fact that I found it a little slow going and just had too many characters, I would rate this 3.5 stars if half stars were allowed . But overall , this is just such an important book that I have to round it up to 4 stars . Cora's story is one that we mustn't forget because she represents so many of the real life slaves who we have to remember.

    Thanks to Doubleday and Edelweiss.

  • Roxane

    Excellent writing, strong concept. I am personally burnt out on slavery narratives so I cannot say this was a pleasure to read. So much unrelenting horror. Whitehead does an excellent job of portraying slavery and America as a slave nation. The idea of the underground railroad, as an actual railroad, is so smart and interesting. I wish he had actually done more with the railroad itself. There were some sentences where I thought, "Now you are just showing off." The amount of research the author d

    Excellent writing, strong concept. I am personally burnt out on slavery narratives so I cannot say this was a pleasure to read. So much unrelenting horror. Whitehead does an excellent job of portraying slavery and America as a slave nation. The idea of the underground railroad, as an actual railroad, is so smart and interesting. I wish he had actually done more with the railroad itself. There were some sentences where I thought, "Now you are just showing off." The amount of research the author did is clear, throughout. There is some really interesting structural work at play. I wanted some of the secondary characters to be more fully developed. This book is going to do very well, and rightly so.

  • Navidad Thelamour

    I was really looking forward to this read! I had an interesting relationship with

    , having read it in college and not quite grasped it then came back to it later and enjoyed it more. I love everything that Colson Whitehead is about (and I hope to read

    soon), but this particular foray into his work turned out to be a little less than a love affair for me.

    starts on the Ran

    I was really looking forward to this read! I had an interesting relationship with

    , having read it in college and not quite grasped it then came back to it later and enjoyed it more. I love everything that Colson Whitehead is about (and I hope to read

    soon), but this particular foray into his work turned out to be a little less than a love affair for me.

    starts on the Randall plantation in Georgia around 1812. This plantation is an amalgamation of every horror and tragedy you’ve ever heard of about slavery. Slaves are beaten and raped for amusement, even on display for the entertainment of guests sipping lemonade; attempts at fleeing from bondage or bucking the system are (often arbitrarily) met with public displays of execution, from being strung up and castrated to a good ole-fashioned tarring and feathering. Life on the plantation is as rough for women—who are used as breeders for more slaves, hence more money, and are constantly at the mercy of male appetites, both from those in the ivory tower and those in the fields—as it is for the laboring men. In the midst of it all, Cora, a stray who’s gained a bit of a scarlet letter because her mother fled the plantation and left her behind years back, starts her long journey to freedom one quiet night with nothing but a sack of unripe turnips, two companions and the North Star as their guide. But the untold horrors that she will face ahead of her on this trek will sometimes rival those that she left behind. With a bounty on her head and dreams of education and freedom beckoning her forward, she will stop through a slew of Southern states—all with their own systems of Southern

    and oppression—and find herself on Whitehead’s re-envisaged Underground Railroad.

    Within these pages, you’ll embark on a re-imagined historical truth that could only be a creation of Colson Whitehead. Here, the Underground Railroad is—get this—an actual train (or a single, rickety locomotive, but you get the point), complete with a conductor. At times that term is more allegorical than actual, but even the conductors have their own pasts that, at times, ensnare Cora in their trap-like grasp. Human sterilization to control the growth of the Negro population (which, in some states, "problematically" rivals the numbers of the white population), blackface, and the Tuskegee Project are all touched on here, are all experienced by our heroine in some periphery of her journey.

    Those are the goodie takeaways.

    Now for my qualms. This novel would’ve been better served being written in first person, for Cora’s chapters at the

    least. This is a harrowing journey, a terrifying trek into the unknown for a young woman who has never been outside of the confines of the Randall Plantation for her

    life. She’s never worked for her own wages, never bought her own new dress, never even been to see a doctor. We want to see, touch and taste every moment of what she feels. We want to quiver when she quivers and scream when she hurts. We want to experience these truths re-imagined for ourselves, because this is a remarkable journey set in a harrowing past that our country would rather keep hushed and obscured. To truly break us out of this—to truly immerse us in this and better make the point that Whitehead sought to make—we should’ve been squarely in Cora’s shoes, not watching her from above in a slightly removed, vaguely clinical 3rd person.

    While Whitehead’s intellectualism serves his plots well, it doesn’t do the greatest wonders for soulful and immersive execution. Perhaps that comes down to being a matter of personal preference. I found his writing style, as was the case in his

    as well, to be talented but, yes, just a tad by the way of clinician. And finesse—oh, finesse,

    ! Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of it here, and by that I mean that this was quite the bull-ride read: jerky and rough. I had to re-read several passages, because segues from one event to the next were often non-existent. Suddenly, you were in a saloon, or in the middle of an attack by rogue outlaws, then learning letters in a schoolhouse. Literally, a person could go from alive to dead in a single, four-sentence paragraph! Um, what?? (Shaking head vigorously.) What just happened now?

    Also, I could’ve done without the backstory chapters of the minor characters. Every single one of those “let-me-elaborate-on-this-(minor)-character’s-past-life” chapters could’ve been gutted from this manuscript—all except for one. And that one you’ll know when you read it.

    Still, Colson Whitehead managed to touch on the justifications and absolutions that the antebellum South

    whispered to themselves at night to justify their actions, biblical references that laid the way for Manifest Destiny and all the other gluttonous rationalizations that makes slavery possible, in any land, in any era. And for that, I applauded him.

    The story itself was great—a

    epic adventure—but the pace at which it jerked, sometimes lullingly slow and others at whiplash-inducing speeds, turned me off. And, I have to say,

    novel where I feel even the slightest urge to skim and skip ahead can never get 4 stars from me. But his work is definitely unique in its own right, and for that I would absolutely recommend this novel to anyone who has read the blurb and marked it as to-read, to anyone who’s already familiar with Whitehead’s talents and appreciated them, and for those who have yet to become familiar with them. I have a deep respect for this author; the style just didn’t work for me the way I’d hoped this time, and for that I award 3.5 stars ***

    I received an advance-read copy of this novel from the publisher, Doubleday, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Emily May

    This is my first read by Colson Whitehead and it makes me think his style may not be to my tastes.

    It's personal preference, I'm sure. There are some beautiful sentences, some genius structural choices, and many great ideas. Indeed, the re-imagining of history where the Underground Railroad is an actual railroad is a great idea in itself. I just found it lacking in anything resembling emotion. It's a

    and it didn't pull me in.

    All of the secondary characters are

    This is my first read by Colson Whitehead and it makes me think his style may not be to my tastes.

    It's personal preference, I'm sure. There are some beautiful sentences, some genius structural choices, and many great ideas. Indeed, the re-imagining of history where the Underground Railroad is an actual railroad is a great idea in itself. I just found it lacking in anything resembling emotion. It's a

    and it didn't pull me in.

    All of the secondary characters are

    , but more than this, Cora herself wasn't given enough personality and development to really drag me into her world. The other central character - Caesar - is even less developed. I will probably have forgotten them both by tomorrow. Perhaps a first-person narrative would have better suited the subject matter and helped warm us to the characters.

    In this story, Cora and Caesar are slaves at the Randall estate in Georgia. Caesar proposes an escape via the Underground Railroad, which Cora initially refuses, but later agrees to when her situation becomes more dire. The book is full of every monstrous thing committed by slavers - beatings, sexual assault, executions - but I felt distanced from it because of the impersonal nature of the narrative.

    . We should have been right there in the middle of the story with Cora, hearts pounding in fear, and yet I felt somewhat removed, reading - it seemed - an almost clinical account of history.

    The jerky structure that jumps from the main plot to some backstory and back again doesn't make it any easier to become invested. My interest in Cora's story waned some more every time the author picked us up and dropped us somewhere else. With no emotional connection to the characters and little opportunity to become connected to the plot, I felt like this book full of clever ideas never became one I was truly affected by -

    .

    Colson Whitehead is obviously smart. He obviously did a shitload of research. But I just didn't

    .

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  • Justin

    I'm a guy who enjoys "best of" lists. One of my favorite things about December, besides my birthday, Christmas, football, colder weather, and hot chocolate, is sitting down to peruse lists of the best stuff of the year. Books, movies, albums, video games, etc. I love it. I have trusted sources that I rely on to provide my with the best of the best, and when I start to see the same stuff appear on very list, I drop everything and consume it.

    Like right now I'm watching The Americans because Seaso

    I'm a guy who enjoys "best of" lists. One of my favorite things about December, besides my birthday, Christmas, football, colder weather, and hot chocolate, is sitting down to peruse lists of the best stuff of the year. Books, movies, albums, video games, etc. I love it. I have trusted sources that I rely on to provide my with the best of the best, and when I start to see the same stuff appear on very list, I drop everything and consume it.

    Like right now I'm watching The Americans because Season 4 was consistently ranked as one of the best shows on TV last year. I watched La La Land and Manchester by the Sea because they were the two two movies on almost every list out there for 2016. Beyoncé's Lemonade album is awesome, too. And The new stuff from Radiohead.

    But my fascination with lists doesn't necessarily mean I'm always consuming the best media in the entire world because it's so universally critically acclaimed. Sometimes a movie is just awful no matter what the experts say. Sometimes an album just doesn't do it for me no matter how many times I try to listen to it. And sometimes a book just doesn't win me over like it does others. That's all really great though. It's awesome. It's what makes us human and different and all that. We get to have different opinions and stuff can resonate with us in ways that others will never comprehend. It's beautiful.

    The Underground Railroad just didn't do it for me. It was a tough book to read for many reasons. I mean the subject matter is just awful anyway. The fact that people were ever treated that way is disgusting and hard for me to even comprehend. The depictions in the book of cruelty were difficult to read since they were fiction rooted in real events. The concept of a real Underground Railroad was interesting, too, and put a unique spin on historical events.

    I just didn't think it was written very well. I didn't think the characters were developed at all so I found myself completely unattached from them. I didn't even realize one of them was out of the picture until they were brought up later in the book. I just didn't connect. I feel like the events that unfolded would have impacted me more if the characters weren't so underdeveloped. It just seemed like there were a lot of things happening, but I wasn't invested from the beginning and couldn't find my way in as I went along.

    So I was let down by what many consider the best book of 2016. That's OK. There's a million other books to get wrapped up, and many other books that I think deal with this time in history in a more meaningful way. I'm glad I read it though. It did provide me with a harsh reminder of a dark time in our country's history that is often easy to just shy away from or ignore. It was helpful, and I wanted to rate it higher, but I'm good with two stars.

  • Trish

    For nearly twenty years the work of Colson Whitehead has been published to wide acclaim, his fiction and nonfiction both receiving many accolades. For this reason I was eager to have the chance to read his new novel that focused on the origination of the race debate in America—slavery. This new novel is due out September 13, 2016. Thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday for the opportunity to read an e-galley.

    The story centers around Cora, a motherless slave living on the Randall estate in Georgia. Wh

    For nearly twenty years the work of Colson Whitehead has been published to wide acclaim, his fiction and nonfiction both receiving many accolades. For this reason I was eager to have the chance to read his new novel that focused on the origination of the race debate in America—slavery. This new novel is due out September 13, 2016. Thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday for the opportunity to read an e-galley.

    The story centers around Cora, a motherless slave living on the Randall estate in Georgia. When another slave, Caesar, suggests they attempt an escape, Cora initially demurs…until she draws unwanted sexual attentions from her owner.

    The problems with this novel are not in the motivations. Those we understand. The problems are technical: an insufficiently developed Cora, and a mere silhouette of Caesar, the two central characters. When Caesar practically disappears from the narrative one-third of the way in, we barely notice, he was so inconsequential and underdeveloped. Talk about exploitation: he was simply a device.

    But this is fiction, and the author can do whatever he wants, like create an

    underground railroad to eliminate the pesky problem of researching and charting a perilous journey to innumerable secret above-ground destinations that would allow us to picture and relive the terror, the deprivation, and the strength of character of all participants in the movement of hunted individuals within a dangerous environment. When the author suggests that white community members in South Carolina at this time were encouraging scientific experiments on, and recommending sterilizations for, freed black men and women, we don’t trust it and are annoyed that we are going to have to do our own research to verify the (outrageous if false) claim in the fictional narrative.

    Problems of language are also present here, with untenable and frankly unbelievable hectoring challenges from Cora to her white rescuers along the trail: “You feel like a slave?…Born to it, like a slave?” …and Cora’s challenge to Ridgeway, the homicidal slave catcher, after a chatty exchange: “More words to pretty things up.” When Cora idly wonders whether a new wave of immigrants will replace the Irish, “fleeing a different but no less abject country” we are startled. Where did that come from and why would Cora have any knowledge of, or any particular interest in, conditions in Ireland or anywhere else, for that matter? It just isn’t reasonable and seems out of place.

    Then we have the awkwardness of the language: “Cora kept her tongue,” and “Over the years life on Orchard Street passed with a tedium that eventually congealed into comfort,” or “The game of husband and wife was even less fun than she supposed. Jane, at least, turned out to be an unexpected mercy, a tidy bouquet in her arms, even if conception proved yet another humiliation.” These exceptionally ugly, charmless, and clichéd constructions add nothing to our pleasure.

    Finally, there is no momentum in this novel. The storyline is broken into chunks that attempt to explain the backstory of some character or another or tell the story of a stop on Cora’s trail to freedom. Each break draws us further and further from any interest in Cora’s forward progress. It seems she (and we) will never get there.

    I have seen the glowing reviews for this title, so take my criticisms as one among many. This would not be the title you should expect will give you a rich understanding of the real underground railroad for escaped slaves. For that we will have to look elsewhere.

  • Matthew

    Every year, I have either never heard of the films nominated for the Best Picture Academy award or when I see them, I don’t think the movie is all that great; long drawn out scenes with landscapes, close ups of glowering faces, monotonous dialogue, etc. I know that every movie doesn’t have to be action packed, but forced artsy-ness or movies nominated for content but not quality are frustrating.

    The Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer Prize this year. I have read other Pulitzer Prize winners an

    Every year, I have either never heard of the films nominated for the Best Picture Academy award or when I see them, I don’t think the movie is all that great; long drawn out scenes with landscapes, close ups of glowering faces, monotonous dialogue, etc. I know that every movie doesn’t have to be action packed, but forced artsy-ness or movies nominated for content but not quality are frustrating.

    The Underground Railroad won the Pulitzer Prize this year. I have read other Pulitzer Prize winners and generally I have found them to be just okay. Or, in looking through the list of winners, I have not even heard of them at all. Because of this, Pulitzer Prize and Best Picture Awards are very similar to me. I really am not sure what the ultimate criteria ends up being, but apparently it is not criteria that I would use.

    Disclaimer – as you can probably tell already, I did not like this book. That does not mean that I wish to convince you that you should not like it or not read it. It does not mean that if you gave it 5 stars I want to fight about it. All it means is that this book just did not work for me and I cannot tell why it was so great. We can discuss our differences in opinion, but there will be no need to argue!

    I am stuck between 1 and 2 stars on this book. If there was a half star option, I would move forward with a 1.5 star rating. By the time I am done typing this review, maybe I will be able to settle on which one I will go with.

    I listened to the audiobook. I always have an audiobook going on and this is the first time in a long time that I can remember fighting to maintain interest and pay attention to the story (in fact, I think the last time that happened was with

    – another Pulitzer Prize winner). With this being the case, at least one star from 5 has to be removed.

    The characters and the story for me were just blah. I have read other stories and books with difficult subject matter about people being oppressed. In those books the characters were charismatic and impassioned. You felt for the characters and their plight. The story is enthralling and you care about what happens and the ultimate outcome of the story. (Some examples of this are

    ,

    ,

    , etc.). With The Underground Railroad the story was fairly flat for me and the characters kind of uninteresting – reading about what they were going through was more like a bland history book than a story meant to entertain and draw emotion. Considering the subject matter, this was rather unfortunate to me. Also, there was lots of time jumping so I was frequently confused about what was happening, to whom, and in what time frame - this probably led to the fight to stay interested. With this being the case, another star has been removed, bringing us to 3.

    The book is called The Underground Railroad. I thought that this was going to be about The Underground Railroad. Instead, the railroad is just a bit part in the main story

    . I know that an author can name a book anything they want, but this name seemed to point toward a very specific plot point that ended up being minor throughout – and that felt weird to me. The best analogy I can think of is if all the Harry Potter books had his name replaced with “Hogsmeade” in all the titles. While Hogsmeade is a place they go in every book, and sometimes important things happen there, it is hardly the most important location in the book, so why would you put it in the title? With this being the case, another star has been removed, bringing us to 2.

    (Side note on the "Railroad" itself. Seemed like a bit of Magical-Realism that to me felt forced and out of line with the rest of the book. For me, the author was trying too hard for the literal metaphor.)

    I know it probably seems like I am being harsh on this book, but it won awards! It was Oprah’s Book Club pick! The subject matter is in a genre that I have read other captivating books from and was led to believe this one would be right up there with them. My Goodreads friends have consistently been giving it high marks. I was expecting a big payoff! I was expecting to be moved to tears! I was expecting to be first in line when they make this into a movie! But . . . none of this happened. I cannot tell why it won awards. I am not sure why my friends give it high praise. I cannot put this up there with other books I have read with similar subject matter. And, I will not go see this if they make it into a movie. With this being the case, another star has been removed, bringing us to 1.

    So, 1 star . . . that’s it for me. I hope that you enjoyed it, and I don’t discourage others from trying it, but I cannot recommend it or go higher with my rating.

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