Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Prepare to be horrified while reading this book, but then slavery WAS horrifying.  Cora is a young slave on a Georgia plantation and is still angry at her mother for running off when Cora was 10.  When another slave urges Cora to join him in an escape attempt, she finally agrees.  She suffers mightily while on the run and even catches herself wishing she were back on the plantation from time to time.  Although the Underground Railroad was not literally a system of trains running in dark tunnels underneath the earth, that’s exactly what it is in this book.  The trains don’t have set schedules, and the passengers don’t necessarily know where they’re headed.  Cora finds that she can never become complacent, because peace and safety are always short-lived, since she is, and always will be, a runaway.  This era reminds me so much of the Holocaust, where the runaway and the persons trying to hide the runaway are all punished, often by a grisly death, when a hideout is discovered.  I particularly liked how the author supplied the backstory for other characters, even after we knew they had met some terrible fate.  Cora’s mother’s story is particularly surprising.  If you’re looking for a book about redemption or even one with happy endings for everybody, this is not the book for you.  The evil characters in the book are not going to suddenly become abolitionists.  Instead they keep popping up, relentlessly bent on destroying the black population or collecting a reward, more and more venomous each time we encounter them.  There are some good people in the book, including a few whites who are sympathetic to the slaves’ cause.  For Cora to survive, she will require a lot of luck, particularly with regard to timing and to the people she meets, and a lot of courage.  She certainly has the latter, but her luck waxes and wanes as she tries to negotiate the minefield that the South was during this period.


Carol N Wong said...

I was curious about this book as my Quaker ancestors participated in the Undergroung Railroad but the reviews that I have seen about not that good. Torn on whether or not to read it.

PattisPages said...

I think you might like it, since you have a personal connection. Also, it won the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction.