The Underground Railroad

One of my resolutions this year is to read more about people not like me i.e. whiny white girls. The options are endless and I'm ashamed that my Goodreads list has never been very representative of different perspectives and race. The first book on my reading expansion journey was The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Underground Railroad takes place during pre-abolitionist America and follows Cora, a slave on a plantation who escapes to a literal underground railroad, a system of tracks and trails throughout the country that help slaves escape their lives of servitude. We, and Cora, never learn who built those tracks and dug those tunnels, some large, some small, some with giant locomotives, some with only a handcar. 

I don't want to get too much into the plot for fear of ruining the story, which is upsetting and uplifting and full of hope and despair. Suffice it to say that the book is beautifully written, evocative and at times evoked visceral reactions of disgust, horror and unbelievable anger and sadness. When we step away from Cora's story and look into other characters' lives, like slave catcher Ridgeway, Cora's partner in crime Caesar, and a reluctant safe house owner Ethel, we are given a full, unbiased picture. Each character believes they're in the right and it's often easy to believe them all, thanks to Whitehead's descriptions and the ability to dive into each character's fully formed head.

We make our slow way into 2017, hoping to have left the horrors of 2016 behind, but knowing that that's easier said than done. Reading a book set during slavery and seeing so many aspects still represented in 21st-century life is upsetting and unconscionable, to say the least. This is required reading.