Claudia Putnam's Reviews > The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
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Oct 03, 2016

really liked it

Adding a small edit, below:

As one who also, as a child, imagined an actual train--or at least a tunnel system--underground, I was delighted to hear of this book. The writing is terrific, and the characters well realized. I feared it would be didactic, but the book flew by. I read it in one night, which in no way reduced the emotional impact, even when I knew the history quite well. Still. Although this doesn't have the sweep of The Sport of Kings, once again we are left contemplating the trauma legacy of slavery.

Edit:

I wanted to add that the ending is particularly powerful, when the freeman black driver of the final wagon heading West says "Let's catch up." How this might be done is hinted at much earlier in the book when Cora observes of her fellow slaves: "She thought of the picking, how it raced down the furrows at harvest, the African bodies working as one, as fast as their strength permitted. The vast fields burst with hundreds of thousands of white [cotton] bolls, strung like stars in the sky on the clearest of clear nights. When the slaves finished, they had stripped the fields of their color. It was a magnificent operation, from seed to bale, but not one of them could be prideful of their labor. It had been stolen from them. Bled from them. [Whereas with the underground railroad, built also, it's implied, by African Americans, for "who builds everything in this country?" ] The tunnel, the tracks, the desperate souls who found salvation in the coordination of its stations and timetables—this was a marvel to be proud of." The implication is that African Americans, freed, and working together, have the ability to accomplish anything, and in record time. Let's catch up, we might surmise Whitehead is saying. And why not even overtake and surpass?
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Reading Progress

August 4, 2016 – Shelved
August 4, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
October 2, 2016 – Started Reading
October 3, 2016 – Finished Reading

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