Review – The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Published: August 2nd 2016 by Doubleday Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Pages: 306


This is my first encounter with Colson Whitehead and all hopes were high as I’ve seen all the praises. A few chapters into it I am afraid I do not understand the depth of his writings. To me it all seems distant and removed and I am having the hardest time getting into it.

“Not long after it became known that Cora’s womanhood had come into flower, Edward, Pot, and two hands from the southern half dragged her behind the smokehouse. If anyone heard or saw, they did not intervene. The Hob women sewed her up. Blake was gone by then. Perhaps having looking into her face that day, he had counseled his companions against revenge: It will cost you. But he was gone. He ran off three years after she busted up the doghouse, hiding in the swamp for weeks. It was his mutt’s barking that gave away his location to the patrollers. Cora would have said it served him right, had his punishment not made her shiver to think about.”

In this paragraph, I am guessing Cora gets her period and is gang raped as an act of revenge. It is so severe that she is stitched up after. And what Cora shivers thinking about is the punishment Blake got when he ran away?

This paragraph could be a whole story, it can be a whole chapter. Instead, it’s 7 emotionless lines of fact that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone, not even the victim.

I don’t see how I should be expected to care about any of this when we are so removed from it that the characters themselves don’t care.

I wanted to love this book, I thought it was such a brilliant idea to reimagine the underground railroad as an actual railroad. I heard the negro spirituals ringing in my ear. I was so ready for the “wade in the waters” but there was just no feeling in any of it.

I gave up. It sits in my disappointment pile hoping to be picked up again one day.