Greetings, readers! My name is Sareeta Domingo, and I’m an author and fiction editor. It’s my great pleasure to be bringing you a Book of the Week, each week here on Morning Mari.
Recently, I’ve been seeing some mesmerising teaser trailers circulating the internet for the incredible director Barry Jenkins’ next project—a limited television series which will be an adaptation of a truly brilliant book. So, I thought I would make it my Book of the Week selection for this week—Colson Whitehead’s astounding, Pulitzer Prize Winning 2016 novel The Underground Railroad.
The novel is set in the 19th Century in the United States. It focuses on Cora, an enslaved young woman who is an outcast on the plantation where she is forced to work, due to the fact that her mother, Mabel, escaped and left her behind. When fellow enslaved man Ceasar makes a plan to escape, he and Cora find their way out with the help of the Underground Railroad. While in reality, this was the term for a secret network of houses and clandestine routes to free states, and to Canada, in Whitehead’s novel the Underground Railroad is reimagined as an actual, physical rail transport system.
The story follows Cora and Ceasar’s dangerous, epic journey, the various places they arrive at or are forced to hide in, and the people they meet in dark, empathetic and sometimes tragic circumstances. All the while, they are being hunted by the evil so-called slave-catcher, Ridgeway, who is seeking vengeance for Mabel, the only enslaved person he’s been unable to capture.
The book is compelling and brilliantly written, with one of the most emotionally devastating twists I’ve ever read. But ultimately, the novel is a story of hope against impossible odds, and with the character of Cora at its heart we’re constantly willing her to succeed and so truly thankful for each victory, small and large, that she achieves. As Whitehead writes near the conclusion of the story – She Was Never Property. The novel is a truly staggering literary achievement, and that is why The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is my Book of the Week this week.