Cora, a slave on a plantation in Georgia, escapes with another slave named Caesar. With the help of the underground railroad, which, in this novel, is actually a railroad, Cora travels through several states, each with its own peculiar laws and treatments of blacks. Always in pursuit of her is Ridgeway, a slave catcher who is zealously trying to capture Cora and take her back to Georgia.
Whitehead’s novel has gotten many accolades and is this month’s selection for Oprah’s Book Club. Quite frankly, I don’t get it. At times the prose is awkward and the blending of historical fiction with blatant inaccuracies, even if they are meant to be literary tools, didn’t work for me. I much preferred James McBride’s Song Yet Sung, also about a runaway female slave and the underground railroad.