The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When I first started the novel, I couldn’t get into it. There was too much going deep into some characters and not others, and it wasn’t clear which characters would return in the story. This disjointed storytelling continued throughout, but the story picked up once Cora and Caesar began their journey toward the Underground Railroad. Then there was action with the tension building up until another character’s background interrupted the present. This is a good literary tactic to dangle what’s happening next over the reader, but I was conflicted on my investment in the characters.
Cora was the main character but Ridgeway’s background and presence sometimes made him appear as a stronger character. Caesar faded out of the story along with so many other characters I had to read the long backgrounds of. It’s about 75% background on multiple characters—some who won’t matter later—and 25% of the present. If the background on most of the characters were limited and weaved in better with the present instead of being placed in separate chapters, the story would’ve moved along smoother.
Seeing Cora’s journey to freedom with waiting in some places too long not in safer Canada because they seemed ideal until they weren’t, and her dealing with the impact of her choices enlivened the novel. The garden plot she had at the Randall plantation is a stronger symbol than the Underground Railroad, in which the idea of it actually being a train line seems unoriginal. Remember when Porsha from Real Housewives of Atlanta thought it was an underground railroad seasons ago? A lot of people think that.
Overall, the writing is well structured, but the way the story was structured annoyed me as a reader more than pulled me in.