The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Whitehead’s tale of Cora, an escaped slave fleeing numerous dangers, is harrowing and heart-wrenching, and the writing is so exquisite that I felt the story sharply. I cried three times by page seven, and countless times after, repeatedly moved by Cora’s struggle to find a moment’s peace in a horrific world that does not believe her worthy of it. That is the magic of this book. Whitehead tells Cora’s story so simply, so matter-of-fact, it makes the horrors all the more real. To us, it is a horrifying look at a shameful, inexcusable part of history; to Cora, it is just life as she knows it. My heart felt like it had been sledgehammered by the end. I cannot stop thinking about this book, and will not be surprised in the least if it wins all the awards. Whitehead is a remarkable, multifaceted writer, and this is his best yet.
Note: This book wasn’t due to be released until Sept. 13, but then Oprah picked it for her book club. And because she is a magical book wizard, they moved the release date up five weeks just for her, and surprise-dropped it like a Beyoncé album.
Backlist bump: Just sit and think about this one for a while.