The Underground Railroad

With a name like The Underground Railroad, one has to expect an emotional read.

But I have to confess, Colson Whitehead’s book left me a little disappointed, mostly because it was just not what I expected.

It isn’t a bad book, in fact I still enjoyed reading it. But, it wasn’t the fast-paced, heart-wrenching story I assumed it would be.

The story follows Cora, a slave girl who certainly does experience her share of trials and horrors. She runs away, and never stops running. It’s a look at the fears and challenges that runaway slaves faced in the pre-civil war era.

But, Cora is matter of fact, and the narrative is too. Most often, the bad things Cora experiences are shown through memories or flashbacks. It’s not depicted in the present, which takes some of the horror out of it, as Cora emotionlessly looks back. It’s hard to feel her pain because she hardly expresses any. Cora is angry, but even her rage is emotionlessly described.

The book is written in a style that is hard to describe. It doesn’t quite feel like a novel, but it’s not a diary. It feels a bit like non-fiction, but not a biography of memoir. It reads almost like an essay on Cora’s experiences. Perhaps it is because the book isn’t broken up by chapters as much as by subhead titles for various sections.

Overall, it’s not a bad book, in fact it’s quite good. It’s a different style, but it worked for Whitehead’s story.

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