Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. If that isn’t bad enough, she is also an outcast among the slaves on the plantation.  She’s been banished to the reject shack.

When she was a child, her mother ran away one night and was never seen again.  Whether she made it to freedom or not, Cora doesn’t know.

Then a new slave from Virginia arrives. He tells Cora about the Underground Railroad. He asks Cora to escape with him.

She is hesitant, but after being raped by some slaves and beaten by her master, she agrees.

But before they even get to the first safe house, they are confronted by a group of white men.  In the ensuing struggle, Cora kills a teenager who attacks her. They make it to the first safe house, but now in addition to being escaped slaves, they are murderers.

And this is where the novel gets interesting.

In Whitehead’s reimagining of the world, the Underground Railroad is an actual railroad that runs underground. They have tracks and trains.  They have conductors and platforms with benches. They have stops all over the South that lead escaped slaves to freedom.

After riding for a while, their first stop is Charleston, S.C.

At first, this place seems like a haven for Caesar and Cora. It’s a million miles away from the brutality of the plantation in Georgia, where Cora had watched men burned alive for trying to escape. She has a bed to sleep in and work that isn’t picking cotton to keep her busy.

But as the reality of this city starts to seep through to the surface, and with a relentless slave catcher named Ridgeway closing in on them, Caesar and Cora get back on the train.

They stop in more states, revealing different worlds at each stop, each a glimpse into a different aspect of the African American experience, as they push forward on their journey to freedom.

What to Watch for in March

By Steve Erickson

The twin towers suddenly reappear 20 years after they fell in the Badlands of South Dakota. People flock from far and wide to see them, and on the 93rd floor of the south tower is the stillborn twin brother of Elvis Presley. That is one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard, so I have to check it out.

By Meg Howrey

Prime Space, a giant aerospace company, wants to go to Mars. Before they do that, they want to put three people into a 17-month simulation to see how people will deal with the trip. I’m going to guess not well.

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