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 as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

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The Underground Railroad Reviews

  • Julie
    Oct 22, 2016


    "I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves," stated First Lady Michelle Obama at this year's Democratic National Convention. Her words seemed to come as a surprise to many, those who had either forgotten or had never known that black hands enslaved by white masters bu...

  • Brian
    Oct 13, 2016


    Outstanding. This is the novel I've been hoping Whitehead would one day write. Along with The Sympathizer and Don Quixote this is on the top of my 2016 fiction reads. ...

  • Althea Ann
    Oct 11, 2016

    Althea Ann

    I really loved Colson Whitehead's 'The Intuitionist' and 'Zone One' so was very excited to get a copy of 'The Underground Railroad,' courtesy of NetGalley and Doubleday (many thanks!)This is a very strong novel, but I didn't personally love it as much as those other two books. It's a b...

  • Anna
    Oct 10, 2016


    Despite my 3-star average rating here, I'd like to say that I did enjoy "The Underground Railroad". Colson Whitehead is extremely talented and should be proud of his work here. My rating in this instance is because A) there were aspects of the characterization, story structure, and set...

  • Navidad Thelamour
    Oct 10, 2016

    Navidad Thelamour

    “All men are created equal, unless we decide you are not a man.”I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Doubleday, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was really looking forward to this read! I had an interesting relationship with The In...

  • Trudie
    Oct 2, 2016


    This book is very hard to define and that is what makes it such an extraordinary read. An interesting hybrid of historical and speculative fiction but so subtly done that you need to peer closely to see the mechanics of it. The most obvious conceit being the literal Underground Railway...

  • Matthew Quann
    Sep 26, 2016

    Matthew Quann

    I rarely get to read books when they are in their acute hype phase, but I decided to put an Audible credit towards critical darling Colson Whitehead's latest novel. A couple drives back and forth across the province and I'm all done with The Underground Railroad and ready to render my ...

  • Laurie Anderson
    Sep 24, 2016

    Laurie Anderson

    This is my favorite book of 2016 - amazing, heartbreaking, and imaginative. Powerful. Are you getting the sense that I liked it? I LOVE this book. I can't wait to re-read it, highlighter in hand. It is a master class in the art of storytelling and a key to deeply understanding the raci...

  • Rincey
    Sep 17, 2016


    This was so great in the most heartbreaking way. See my full review: ...

  • Snotchocheez
    Sep 16, 2016


    4 starsYou gotta admire Colson Whitehead's creative tightrope act here. He puts a hyperreal spin on the scourge of slavery (and all the concomitant indignities stemming therefrom) wrought upon blacks by whites. That he achieves this hyperreality without compromising historicity is rema...