The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead
The devil’s in the details of Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad (Doubleday, $26.95). Taking direction from American slave narratives, the novel confronts the linked heritage of slaveocracy and democracy seeking to ensnare the fugitive teenage orphan, Cora. Cora’s flight from a Georgia plantation and from the slave catcher, Ridgeway, propels her towards fleeting notions of freedom on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. As a subversive text, the novel undermines historical fiction with its fantastic literal dimension of locomotives, train tracks, and subterranean stations; it also outdoes the historical Underground Railroad’s metaphorical network of passageways, covert conductors, and secret safe houses. Colson’s ornate craft deftly depicts America’s reign of terror, inspiring reconciliation.