The story and writing got to my bones. I could not put the book down. It has so many layers of meaning that I will probably read it again. This novel tells the history of our country (including contemporary debates about race and immigration) with so much sensitivity and nuance that it prompted me to think a lot about my own place in the historical trajectory that Whitehead charts. And I felt Cora's breath and saw her eyes in the pages. My stomach cringed so many times as I mentally followed her underground or imagined her cramped in the attic of a white couple in North Carolina whose fear and inability to engage with the reality served to them prevented them from taking responsibility even for their own lives. And I felt pressure in my chest only to realize that I was holding my breath as I read (often impatiently) to see if Cora's strength would enable her to survive and also shield her humanity. I truly hope that many people read this novel. (Posted on 1/16/2018)
LOVED THIS. So in full transparency, I was skeptical about it, because as a U.S. history major, I have read so many books about slavery, I just wasn't sure what Whitehead could possibly do that would be fresh, enthralling, unique to the genre and subject matter. Let me tell you something. I was up late, gripping this book, white knuckling it if you will. There were times when I was terribly afraid for the protagonist and my heart was pounding wildly as she faced any number of situations. I would have to put it down, and think, this isn't even real! The thing is, though the premise is imaginary, clearly slavery was not. Being a young black woman, this hit close to home. What if this was me? Would I have been strong enough to stay focused and calculating. Would I have been picked as an ideal partner to escape with? The end is strong, though absolutely infuriating in some aspects. I realize this was done intentionally, as ultimately this isn't Disney so you're not supposed to close with the happily ever after. I'd strongly suggest this novel if you're looking for a powerful read. (Posted on 5/1/2017)
I chose this book, frankly, because Oprah chose it for her book club. As a lower middle class white child, educated in the '60's, I was well aware of the segregated south, but I had no idea the depth of the degradation and depravity of what people of color had endured in this country. The land of the free, home of the brave......unless you were a person of color. Kidnapped from your village in Africa, sold into bondage......IF you had survived the arduous journey from the Dark Continent to the Americas. Seeing your heritage stripped from you, as surely as your dignity and humanity as you stood on the auctioneers' block.
Bearing children, only to see them torn from you to satisfy your master's debts. I am sure that these atrocities were part of my education, but this novel brings them more to the forefront than any textbook ever did. Even my college textbooks were circumspect in their description of man's inhumanity to man. For example, I did not know that all abolitionists were not involver in the underground railroad for purely altruistic reasons. Some actually used the newly "freed" slaved for medical research, delivering them from one sort of subhuman bondage to another. This book is a real Eye-opener for anyone educated in the public school system . Our textbooks did NOT tell the whole story. This novel gives a glimpse into the hardships and injustices we really never grasped in our American History class. An easy, if unsettling, read for this white girl! (Posted on 4/14/2017)