In February, our Open Book Club will read and discuss The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the #1 New York Times bestseller is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.
We are coordinating this month's book club with Colson Whitehead's February appearance for Seattle Arts & Lectures at Benaroya Hall. That author event is on Thursday, February 15th at 7:30pm and will be an ideal lead-in to our discussion the following week. We hope you can attend both events.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood--where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned--Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor--engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver's Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey--hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Island Book's open book club meets the last Thursday of every month at 7:30pm. Our staff facilitator chooses both fiction and nonfiction titles. All are welcome to attend, and if you purchase your book here in the store you'll always get a 10% discount.