2.5 out of 5 stars
Cora is a slave on a plantation in Georgia. She has been abandoned there by her mother and the rest of the slaves treat her with contempt. Like most of she wishes she could be somewhere else, but most of all wishes she could be free. A fellow slave, Caesar, approaches her with details of a plan to escape. She is reluctant as capture means severe punishment and probably death. But as circumstances change, she reconsiders and decides to flee.
A contact takes them to the Underground Railroad, where they are placed on a train to Carolina. However, their owner is wanting them back and set off after them. They are relatively safe in South Carolina, as they are living under assumed names, but it isn’t safe there as she learns of a medical programme that will use her and others in an experiment. She is just in the process of planning to leave, but her owner arrives and she has a close escape and heads back to the railroad to go further north. She isn’t sure if she can keep running, but neither does she want to get caught.
In lots of ways, this is a powerful book about slavery. It doesn’t hold back on the brutal life that slaves had in America at that time and Whitehead has captured very well the fear that they had just existing and the daily terror that they had while on the run. Whist I felt for the characters and the trauma that they were going through, I found them a little two dimensional. I also didn’t find the plot that engaging and found the underground railroad quite implausible. I can kind of see why it won the Pulitzer, but not the Arthur C Clarke Award. Ah well, can’t love every book.