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Cover image for The Underground Railroad : a novel
Format:
Title:
The Underground Railroad : a novel
ISBN:
9781524736309

9781524734633
Edition:
First large print edition.
Publication:
[New York] : Random House Large Print, [2016]
Physical Description:
417 pages (large print) ; 24 cm
General Note:
"Oprah's Book Club : 2016 selection"--Cover.
Contents:
Ajarry -- Georgia -- Ridgeway -- South Carolina -- Stevens -- North Carolina -- Ethel -- Tennessee -- Caesar -- Indiana -- Mabel -- The North.
Summary:
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Their 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 re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.
Holds:

Available:*

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LP Whitehead, C.
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LARGE PRINT - WHITEHEAD
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FICTION WHITEHEAD
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LP Whitehead, C.
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LP FIC WHITEHEAD
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On Order

Summary

Summary

From #1 New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist 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.


From the Hardcover edition.


Author Notes

Colson Whitehead was born on November 6, 1969. He graduated from Harvard College and worked at the Village Voice writing reviews of television, books, and music.

His first novel, The Intuitionist, won the Quality Paperback Book Club's New Voices Award. His other books include The Colossus of New York, Sag Harbor, and Zone One. He won the Young Lions Fiction Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for John Henry Days, the PEN/Oakland Award for Apex Hides the Hurt, and the National Book Award for fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Underground Railroad.

His reviews, essays, and fiction have appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Harper's and Granta. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Audiobook fans will certainly not be disappointed by versatile actor Turpin's performance of Whitehead's powerful historical novel, which tells the story of Cora, a teenage slave girl who lives on a cotton plantation in 1850s Georgia. After several public whippings by the plantation's new owner, she decides to flee north on the Underground Railroad. Turpin manages to shift between the ages, races, and accents of the large cast of characters with remarkable ease. Her turn as Cora mesmerizes with its display of conflicting emotions and attachments. Yet she is equally gifted in her depiction of white slave catcher Ridgeway, Cora's longtime nemesis, whose cruelty is made all the more chilling given his curious eccentricities. Turpin takes great pains to handle the nuances of dialect without resorting to caricature. A Doubleday hardcover. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

What if the metaphorical Underground Railroad had been an actualunderground railroad, complete with steam locomotive pulling a "dilapidated box car" along a subterranean nexus of steel tracks? For roughly its first 60 pages, this novel behaves like a prelude to a slave narrative which is, at once, more jolting and sepulchral than the classic firsthand accounts of William Wells Brown and Solomon Northup. Its protagonist, Cora, is among several African-American men and women enslaved on a Georgia plantation and facing a spectrum of savage indignities to their bodies and souls. A way out materializes in the form of an educated slave named Caesar, who tells her about an underground railroad that can deliver her and others northward to freedom. So far, so familiar. But Whitehead, whose eclectic body of work encompasses novels (Zone One, 2011, etc.) playing fast and loose with "real life," both past and present, fires his most daring change-up yet by giving the underground railroad physical form. This train conveys Cora, Caesar, and other escapees first to a South Carolina also historically unrecognizable with its skyscrapers and its seemingly, if microscopically, more liberal attitude toward black people. Compared with Georgia, though, the place seems so much easier that Cora and Caesar are tempted to remain, until more sinister plans for the ex-slaves' destiny reveal themselves. So it's back on the train and on to several more stops: in North Carolina, where they've not only abolished slavery, but are intent on abolishing black people, too; through a barren, more forbidding Tennessee; on to a (seemingly) more hospitable Indiana, and restlessly onward. With each stop, a slave catcher named Ridgeway, dispensing long-winded rationales for his wicked calling, doggedly pursues Cora and her diminishing company of refugees. And with every change of venue, Cora discovers anew that "freedom was a thing that shifted as you looked at it, the way a forest is dense with trees up close but from outside, the empty meadow, you see its true limits." Imagine a runaway slave novel written with Joseph Heller's deadpan voice leasing both Frederick Douglass' grim realities and H.P. Lovecraft's rococo fantasiesand that's when you begin to understand how startlingly original this book is. Whitehead continues the African-American artists' inquiry into race mythology and history with rousing audacity and razor-sharp ingenuity; he is now assuredly a writer of the first rank. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Over the course of his previous five novels, Whitehead (Zone One, 2011) has conducted an imaginative, droll, and eviscerating inquiry into the blurred divide between American mythology and American history, especially the camouflaged truth about racism. In this magnetizing and wrenching saga, Whitehead tells the story of smart and resilient Cora, a young third-generation slave on a Georgia cotton plantation where she has been brutally attacked by whites and blacks. Certain that the horror will only get worse, she flees with a young man who knows how to reach the Underground Railroad. Everything Whitehead describes is vividly, often joltinglyrealistic, even the novel's most fantastic element, his vision of this secret transport network as an actual railroad running through tunnels dug beneath the blood-soaked fields of the South, a jolting and resounding embodiment of heroic efforts and colossal risks. Yet for all that sacrifice and ingenuity, freedom proves miserably elusive. A South Carolina town appears to be welcoming until Cora discovers that it is all a facade, concealing quasi-medical genocidal schemes. With a notoriously relentless slave catcher following close behind, Cora endures another terrifying underground journey, arriving in North Carolina, where the corpses of tortured black people hang on the trees along a road whites call the Freedom Trail. Each stop Cora makes along the Underground Railroad reveals another shocking and malignant symptom of a country riven by catastrophic conflicts, a poisonous moral crisis, and diabolical violence. Each galvanizing scene blazes with terror and indictment as Whitehead tracks the consequences of the old American imperative to seize, enslave, and profit. Stolen bodies working stolen land. It was an engine that did not stop, its hungry boiler fed with blood. With each compelling character, some based on historical figures, most born of empathic invention, Whitehead takes measure of the personal traumas and mass psychosis that burn still within our national consciousness. Hard-driving, laser-sharp, artistically superlative, and deeply compassionate, Whitehead's unforgettable odyssey adds a clarion new facet to the literature of racial tyranny and liberation.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2016 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, by Colson Whitehead. (Anchor, $16.95.) Whitehead's boldly inventive novel follows Cora, a slave in Georgia making her escape to freedom on a literal underground railroad. As she encounters horror after horror, the story trains an eye on aspects of black history too often co-opted by white narrators. This book, one of the Book Review's 10 best of 2016, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017. CANNIBALISM: A Perfectly Natural History, by Bill Schutt. (Algonquin, $16.95.) It wasn't just the Donner party. Cannibalism is often the rule, not the exception, for many species. Schutt's breezy tone helps keep disgust at bay, and the book is full of surprising detail: In China, for example, elites during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) regularly feasted on humans, and the practice continued well into the late 1960s. A PIECE OF THE WORLD, by Christina Baker Kline. (William Morrow/HarperCollins, $16.99.) Kline imagines the inner life of the woman with polio crawling across a desolate field in Andrew Wyeth's iconic painting, "Christina's World." "Both painter and writer have a fine-grained feel for the setting," our reviewer, Becky Aikman, wrote. "Christina's yearning, her determination, her will to dream, occupy the emotional center in both the novel and the painting." PHENOMENA: The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigation Into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis, by Annie Jacobsen. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $17.99.) For decades, the military has tried to harness the supernatural - to find hostages, for example, or to read foreign governments' minds. Jacobsen's account is full of entertaining anecdotes; she catalogs the seers, the spoon-benders and the researchers who administered ESP tests to plants, all funded in the interest of national security. ILL WILL, by Dan Chaon. (Ballantine, $17.) This dark literary thriller deals with recovered memories, satanistic ritual and childhood trauma. Dustin, a psychologist in his 40s, is grappling with a tragic past: His parents, aunt and uncle were murdered and his adopted brother, Rusty, was convicted of the crime. But new DNA evidence helped overturn the ruling, and Rusty's exoneration stirs up long-repressed guilt and fear. MY UTMOST: A Devotional Memoir, by Macy Halford. (Vintage, $17.) "My Utmost for His Highest," a book loved by evangelicals, was central to Halford's faith when she was growing up. Years later, as her beliefs shifted, she investigated the book's origins and its author, Oswald Chambers. Her memoir is both a mediation on "a complicated nostalgia" for the faith of her childhood and an intellectual biography of Chambers.


Library Journal Review

Cora, a slave on a plantation in Georgia, seeks her freedom on a demimythical version of the underground railroad. The railroad is portrayed quite literally, and -Cora's journey encapsulates the struggle for emancipation and civil rights and against Jim Crow and segregation, all of which is symbolized by the societies of the various states in which her train stops. As she travels, Cora's identity evolves from outcast to object to secret sin to prisoner and, finally, to a member of a community. She is pursued by slave catcher Ridgeway as one by one her allies and friends are taken from her in violence and blood. Whitehead's characters bridge the symbolism the story demands and the realism of complicated people. Narrator Bahni Turpin is able to differentiate among the many characters and lends a flowing cadence to the dark and savage tale. -Verdict A powerful story both of a woman and of a people. Highly recommended for readers of literary fiction, historical fiction, American history, and African American literature. ["A highly recommended work that raises the bar for fiction addressing slavery": LJ 7/16 starred review of the Knopf hc.]-Tristan M. Boyd, Austin, TX © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.