The Novel That Earned America's Biggest Prize (and Others)
320 pages; Doubleday
Yes, this book was selected for Oprah's Book Club. However, Colson Whitehead's sixth novel is also the 2016 winner in fiction of the National Book Award (presented by the National Book Foundation) and, as of yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize. In this chilling, unforgettable novel, the Underground Railroad—the historical network of safe houses that helped slaves escape north before the Civil War—is an actual railroad. Riding these subterranean rails is Cora, a headstrong slave determined to find her freedom and uncover the fate of her disappeared mother. What follows is a surreal adventure, complete with harrowing eugenics experiments and lynchings, wild escapes from danger, and unlikely alliances. Whitehead's straightforward style blurs the line between fact and fiction when it comes to the history of slavery, but he's located some essential truths in the process, delivering a powerful allegory for today's racial divisions.