The Underground Railroad (pulitzer Prize Winner) (national Book Award Winner) (oprah's Book Club): A Novel by Colson WhiteheadThe Underground Railroad (pulitzer Prize Winner) (national Book Award Winner) (oprah's Book Club): A Novel by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad (pulitzer Prize Winner) (national Book Award Winner) (oprah's Book Club…

byColson Whitehead

Hardcover | August 2, 2016

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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell 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—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. 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. And 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.
     Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. 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.
Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award, and named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, as well as The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Ap...
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Title:The Underground Railroad (pulitzer Prize Winner) (national Book Award Winner) (oprah's Book Club…Format:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9.52 × 6.46 × 1.16 inPublished:August 2, 2016Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385542364

ISBN - 13:9780385542364

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from So good!! So important to read this and acknowledge history. It seems in efforts to protect people from being offended we do a greater injustice by pretending bad things didn't happen and bad people didn't exist. This is a great fiction rooted in truth and I hope people take it to heart
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An important, beautifully written book Despite being a work of fiction, this book provides a much-needed (and in many ways, timely) look into the realities of slavery and combats historical amnesia and the "slavery as benevolence" narrative.
Date published: 2017-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful and Beautiful Read! No words can describe the emotion and power of this book. Definitely recommend this book to anyone!
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Underground Railroad This is a must read book. It tells a compelling and thought provoking tale dealing with USA slavery.
Date published: 2017-08-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Compelling Intriguing, thoughtful. Definitely worth a read
Date published: 2017-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Read this!! There is a reason it's winning awards. I got this for Christmas and was done the book by the end of boxing day. I was unable to put it down. There was suspense, history, and an overwhelming sense of empathy all rolled into the pages of this book.
Date published: 2017-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from interesting! good read if you like history!!
Date published: 2017-07-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting read Not a bad fiction read. Interesting to read the authors depiction of the underground railroad he created (literally, underground), not sure however, if that ended up adding to the story at all. Still enjoyed the book though!
Date published: 2017-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Liked ti! It's a good read, the story is compelling and interesting.
Date published: 2017-05-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from So so The story was somewhat interesting, but I did not find it that compelling. I agree with a previous review that said making the underground railroad a real railroad did not add anything. To me, it gave the story a somewhat unreal quality that took away from the actual underground railroad and all that it represents.
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing storie !! I bought few weeks ago best book ever!!
Date published: 2017-04-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting This book was o.k. I did not think the story was necessarily unique. It could be considered for the Pulitzer however. It'll be interesting to see if it wins thus year.
Date published: 2017-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Good story, characters and writing
Date published: 2017-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beatutiful Story The writing is georgeous,the characters so well defined and interesting and the historical plot captivating.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this! This book is not entirely what I expected. I was expecting stories related to the history of the underground railroad and the railroad itself, but ended up following the escape and adventure of Cora. It was fascinating to read how slavery were perceived differently across states, and encourages the reader to reflect. I found this book an exciting and thrilling read.
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I am surprised to see the less than positive reviews here. I was swept away with the story and it gave me a lot to think about it. I thought this was really well written and a worthy read. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-02-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from It was okay Wasnt my favourite but worth the read #plumreview
Date published: 2017-02-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Glad I read it... ... but didn't enjoy reading it. I was a bit perplexed by the choice to make the underground railroad an actual railroad. Personally I didn't think it added anything to the story.
Date published: 2017-01-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Meh Usually love Oprahs book club books...not this one
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointed Was disappointed in this read. Another book that after trying to make myself 'like' it, I just couldn't. Quit reading about half way through.
Date published: 2017-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended Not exactly what I expected, and rather graphic, but an interesting take on the "underground railroad" and slavery in America. It was a very well-written book!
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Unique take on the Underground Railroad! The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead tells the story of Cora and her life as a slave. Cora is a slave in Georgia. Cora is the daughter of Mabel and the granddaughter of Ajarry. After Cora’s mother escaped, Cora was alone. Cora is treated horribly by the other slaves. She gets thrown out of the where she was living with her mother and is forced to move into the Hob (a house for the slave outcasts). One day Cora is approached by Caesar. Caesar is a new to the plantation. His previous owner was a kind woman who taught him to read. She had promised Caesar his freedom upon her death, but she did not keep her promise. Caesar tells Cora about the Underground Railroad. The two of them form a plan and one day they take off. Unfortunately, things do not go quite as planned. Lovey, a fellow slave, follows them (she had been watching them). They are going through the swamps to make capture more difficult, but they did not anticipate hog hunters. The hunters realize they are runaway slaves and attempt to capture them. One of the hunters (just a boy really) ends up dead from a rock. Cora is now wanted for murder. Lovey ends up getting captured. Cora and Caesar quickly make their way to the first stop for them on the Underground Railroad. They are in for quite a journey. Some of the stops will be quick and others will be quite lengthy. Will they ever be completely free or will they continue to be hunted (especially Cora)? Ridgeway is a slave hunter who has something to prove. Ridgeway was given the task of finding Cora’s mother, Mabel. He was never able to capture her. Ridgeway is very determined to return Cora to her owner. To find out what happens to Cora and Caesar, you will have to read The Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad is a very dark novel. The majority of the novel focuses on Cora (poor Caesar). I found the writing to be awkward and difficult to read (I just did not like the author's writing style). The book lacks flow. First we are with Cora, then it jumps to someone else, then back to Cora, and then to another character. It will also go back in time to tell you the backstory of the latest character (when Cora meets someone new on the Underground Railroad). It makes it hard to read and to get into the story. I was able to finish the book, but I did not like it or enjoy it (sorry). You need to be aware that The Underground Railroad contains very graphic violence. Some of the violence is very disturbing and upsetting. I give The Underground Railroad 2 out of 5 stars. I did like Colson Whitehead’s take on the Underground Railroad. He had tunnels running all over the United States and actual trains. I was curious, though, how people above ground did not hear the loud engines of the trains. Mr. Whitehead did capture the time and place quite accurately. The ending was extremely dissatisfying.
Date published: 2016-10-24

Read from the Book

THE first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no. This was her grandmother talking. Cora’s grandmother had never seen the ocean before that bright afternoon in the port of Ouidah and the water dazzled after her time in the fort’s dungeon. The dungeon stored them until the ships arrived. Dahomeyan raiders kidnapped the men first, then returned to her village the next moon for the women and children, marching them in chains to the sea two by two. As she stared into the black doorway, Ajarry thought she’d be reunited with her father, down there in the dark. The survivors from her village told her that when her father couldn’t keep the pace of the long march, the slavers stove in his head and left his body by the trail. Her mother had died years before. Cora’s grandmother was sold a few times on the trek to the fort, passed between slavers for cowrie shells and glass beads. It was hard to say how much they paid for her in Ouidah as she was part of a bulk purchase, eighty-eight human souls for sixty crates of rum and gunpowder, the price arrived upon after the standard haggling in Coast English. Able-bodied men and child- bearing women fetched more than juveniles, making an individual accounting difficult. The Nanny was out of Liverpool and had made two previous stops along the Gold Coast. The captain staggered his purchases, rather than find himself with cargo of singular culture and disposition. Who knew what brand of mutiny his captives might cook up if they shared a common tongue. This was the ship’s final port of call before they crossed the Atlantic. Two yellow-haired sailors rowed Ajarry out to the ship, humming. White skin like bone. The noxious air of the hold, the gloom of confinement, and the screams of those shackled to her contrived to drive Ajarry to madness. Because of her tender age, her captors did not immedi- ately force their urges upon her, but eventually some of the more seasoned mates dragged her from the hold six weeks into the pas- sage. She twice tried to kill herself on the voyage to America, once by denying herself food and then again by drowning. The sailors stymied her both times, versed in the schemes and inclinations of chattel. Ajarry didn’t even make it to the gunwale when she tried to jump overboard. Her simpering posture and piteous aspect, recognizable from thousands of slaves before her, betrayed her intentions. Chained head to toe, head to toe, in exponential misery. Although they had tried not to get separated at the auction in Ouidah, the rest of her family was purchased by Portuguese trad- ers from the frigate Vivilia, next seen four months later drifting ten miles off Bermuda. Plague had claimed all on board. Authori- ties lit the ship on fire and watched her crackle and sink. Cora’s grandmother knew nothing about the ship’s fate. For the rest of her life she imagined her cousins worked for kind and generous masters up north, engaged in more forgiving trades than her own, weaving or spinning, nothing in the fields. In her stories, Isay and Sidoo and the rest somehow bought their way out of bondage and lived as free men and women in the City of Pennsylvania, a place she had overheard two white men discuss once. These fantasies gave Ajarry comfort when her burdens were such to splinter her into a thousand pieces. The next time Cora’s grandmother was sold was after a month in the pest house on Sullivan’s Island, once the physicians certified her and the rest of the Nanny’s cargo clear of illness. Another busy day on the Exchange. A big auction always drew a colorful crowd. Traders and procurers from up and down the coast converged on Charleston, checking the merchandise’s eyes and joints and spines, wary of venereal distemper and other afflictions. Onlook- ers chewed fresh oysters and hot corn as the auctioneers shouted into the air. The slaves stood naked on the platform. There was a bidding war over a group of Ashanti studs, those Africans of renowned industry and musculature, and the foreman of a lime- stone quarry bought a bunch of pickaninnies in an astounding bargain. Cora’s grandmother saw a little boy among the gawk- ers eating rock candy and wondered what he was putting in his mouth. Just before sunset an agent bought her for two hundred and twenty-six dollars. She would have fetched more but for that sea- son’s glut of young girls. His suit was made of the whitest cloth she had ever seen. Rings set with colored stone flashed on his fin- gers. When he pinched her breasts to see if she was in flower, the metal was cool on her skin. She was branded, not for the first or last time, and fettered to the rest of the day’s acquisitions. The coffle began their long march south that night, staggering behind the trader’s buggy. The Nanny by that time was en route back to Liverpool, full of sugar and tobacco. There were fewer screams belowdecks. You would have thought Cora’s grandmother cursed, so many times was she sold and swapped and resold over the next few years. Her owners came to ruin with startling frequency. Her first mas- ter got swindled by a man who sold a device that cleaned cotton twice as fast as Whitney’s gin. The diagrams were convincing, but in the end Ajarry was another asset liquidated by order of the magistrate. She went for two hundred and eighteen dollars in a hasty exchange, a drop in price occasioned by the realities of the local market. Another owner expired from dropsy, whereupon his widow held an estate sale to fund a return to her native Europe, where it was clean. Ajarry spent three months as the property of a Welshman who eventually lost her, three other slaves, and two hogs in a game of whist. And so on. Her price fluctuated. When you are sold that many times, the world is teaching you to pay attention. She learned to quickly adjust to the new plantations, sorting the nigger breakers from the merely cruel, the layabouts from the hardworking, the inform- ers from the secret-keepers. Masters and mistresses in degrees of wickedness, estates of disparate means and ambition. Sometimes the planters wanted nothing more than to make a humble living, and then there were men and women who wanted to own the world, as if it were a matter of the proper acreage. Two hundred and forty-eight, two hundred and sixty, two hundred and seventy dollars. Wherever she went it was sugar and indigo, except for a stint folding tobacco leaves for one week before she was sold again. The trader called upon the tobacco plantation looking for slaves of breeding age, preferably with all their teeth and of pliable disposi- tion. She was a woman now. Off she went. She knew that the white man’s scientists peered beneath things to understand how they worked. The movement of the stars across the night, the cooperation of humors in the blood. The temper- ature requirements for a healthy cotton harvest. Ajarry made a science of her own black body and accumulated observations. Each thing had a value and as the value changed, everything else changed also. A broken calabash was worth less than one that held its water, a hook that kept its catfish more prized than one that relinquished its bait. In America the quirk was that people were things. Best to cut your losses on an old man who won’t survive a trip across the ocean. A young buck from strong tribal stock got customers into a froth. A slave girl squeezing out pups was like a mint, money that bred money. If you were a thing—a cart or a horse or a slave—your value determined your possibilities. She minded her place. Finally, Georgia. A representative of the Randall plantation bought her for two hundred and ninety-two dollars, in spite of the new blankness behind her eyes, which made her look simple- minded. She never drew a breath off Randall land for the rest of her life. She was home, on this island in sight of nothing. Cora’s grandmother took a husband three times. She had a pre- dilection for broad shoulders and big hands, as did Old Randall, although the master and his slave had different sorts of labor in mind. The two plantations were well-stocked, ninety head of nig- ger on the northern half and eighty-five head on the southern half. Ajarry generally had her pick. When she didn’t, she was patient. Her first husband developed a hankering for corn whiskey and started using his big hands to make big fists. Ajarry wasn’t sad to see him disappear down the road when they sold him to a sugar- cane estate in Florida. She next took up with one of the sweet boys from the southern half. Before he passed from cholera he liked to share stories from the Bible, his former master being more liberal- minded when it came to slaves and religion. She enjoyed the stories and parables and supposed that white men had a point: Talk of salvation could give an African ideas. Poor sons of Ham. Her last husband had his ears bored for stealing honey. The wounds gave up pus until he wasted away. Ajarry bore five children by those men, each delivered in the same spot on the planks of the cabin, which she pointed to when they misstepped. That’s where you came from and where I’ll put you back if you don’t listen. Teach them to obey her and maybe they’ll obey all the masters to come and they will survive. Two died miserably of fever. One boy cut his foot while playing on a rusted plow, which poisoned his blood. Her youngest never woke up after a boss hit him in the head with a wooden block. One after another. At least they were never sold off, an older woman told Ajarry. Which was true—back then Randall rarely sold the little ones. You knew where and how your children would die. The child that lived past the age of ten was Cora’s mother, Mabel. Ajarry died in the cotton, the bolls bobbing around her like whitecaps on the brute ocean. The last of her village, keeled over in the rows from a knot in her brain, blood pouring from her nose and white froth covering her lips. As if it could have been anywhere else. Liberty was reserved for other people, for the citi- zens of the City of Pennsylvania bustling a thousand miles to the north. Since the night she was kidnapped she had been appraised and reappraised, each day waking upon the pan of a new scale. Know your value and you know your place in the order. To escape the boundary of the plantation was to escape the fundamental principles of your existence: impossible. It was her grandmother talking that Sunday evening when Caesar approached Cora about the underground railroad, and she said no. Three weeks later she said yes. This time it was her mother talking.

Bookclub Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of The Underground Railroad, a triumph of a novel by Colson Whitehead.

US

Editorial Reviews

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE, THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD AND THE ALA ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL ** NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, WALL STREET JOURNAL, WASHINGTON POST, TIME, PEOPLE, NPR AND MORE ** #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER“Get it, then get another copy for someone you know because you are definitely going to want to talk about it once you read that heart-stopping last page.” --Oprah Winfrey (Oprah's Book Club 2016 Selection)“[A] potent, almost hallucinatory novel... It possesses the chilling matter-of-fact power of the slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, with echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift…He has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present.” --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times   “Think Toni Morrison (Beloved), Alex Haley (Roots); think 12 Years a Slave…An electrifying novel…a great adventure tale, teeming with memorable characters…Tense, graphic, uplifting and informed, this is a story to share and remember.” --People, (Book of the Week)  "With this novel, Colson Whitehead proves that he belongs on any short list of America's greatest authors--his talent and range are beyond impressive and impossible to ignore. The Underground Railroad is an American masterpiece, as much a searing document of a cruel history as a uniquely brilliant work of fiction."--Michael Schaub, NPR“Far and away the most anticipated literary novel of the year, The Underground Railroad marks a new triumph for Whitehead…[A] book that resonates with deep emotional timbre. The Underground Railroad reanimates the slave narrative, disrupts our settled sense of the past and stretches the ligaments of history right into our own era...The canon of essential novels about America's peculiar institution just grew by one.” --Ron Charles, Washington Post