Tag Archives: Colson Whitehead

Book Review: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (4/5)

7 Jun

This title was on the book club docket before COVID hit but hasn’t reappeared. I thought it was about time I tried to get through it and was excited to see that it’s been released as a mini-series on Amazon Prime. I’ll have to convince my husband to watch that with me soon

Cover image via Amazon

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Summary from Amazon:

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him.

In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is both the gripping tale of one woman’s will to escape the horrors of bondage—and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.

This is one example of why I don’t read summaries. I had no idea the railroad was going to be physical until it appeared. I thought the tracks were part of a metaphor up until the engine pulled in. I loved the idea of a twisting, winding railroad literally delivering people to freedom and better lives. Cora’s story of escape was well done and I liked how she was rightfully never fully safe in her time on the rails. I think a lot of this book was meant to shock and that the treatment of the slaves should have taken me aback more than it did. Having read Kindred by Octavia Butler a few months ago, the effect wasn’t as strong here because I’d been exposed to it recently in that work.

The characters all seemed very real to me. I could believe that Cora and Ceaser were brave enough to run. I could believe that Randall and Ridgeway could be so cruel. I believed in the kindness of the station masters and the fear that simmered under them. Whitehead gave them nervous energy that simmered in this book in a very exciting way.

Cora was easy to like in this story. She was brave and determined and she was fighting for something that you knew was right and just. She was a strong woman and it was hard not to like her. I appreciated that Whitehead made his hero a woman. While Ceasar’s story was strong and he could have been an appealing main character, I think the trauma of raped slave women is unique and wouldn’t have been captured in the same way with a male protagonist.

It’s hard to deny that there is racism in America today. While the treatment of Blacks and other minorities isn’t as deadly today as it was in Cora’s time, it still needs to be combated. It can seem daunting to support movements that seem to be against the government’s stance, such as defunding the police departments and getting rid of restrictive voting laws. While it’s not as deadly today as it was for supporters of free Blacks in the 1800s there can still be backlash. I saw friends and political figures from today when I looked at the allies in this book. I think a lot of the stories then are paralleled now, unfortunately. We may be past slavery, but we’re not past racism and its evils.

Colson Whitehead
Image via the author’s website

Cora and Ceasar’s stop in South Carolina was my favorite. I thought it was such an idyllic place at first until we started to see the evil intentions and traps that were lurking just under the surface. I thought these were revealed well and gave a sense of foreboding that was well done. Cora’s eventual escape was a point of great intensity in the book that I enjoyed.

I felt the ending of the book seemed a bit rushed. From the end of the Valentine Farm to the end of the book, things wrapped up quickly. I didn’t expect this book to have a neat bow on it, but I was hoping for a little more about Cora’s eventual peace which is teased. After so much suffering, I would have liked a moment of comfort. But I understand that Cora’s life was about pain and that’s why her story focused there.

The audiobook was narrated by Bahni Turpin and I’m still loving Turpin’s narration. This is my third time listening to a book with her and I’m looking forward to more in the future. She had great voices for all of the characters and tapped into Cora’s emotions well. She was serious when needed and lighthearted when appropriate. I’d listen to her other work in the future without hesitation.

America needs to remember how it brought Blacks to America. We have to remember that there has been slavery, repression, Jim Crow, and other evils that we still see today. I’ve heard about how we’ve ‘fixed’ the problems that are at the root of our issues and how racism is over and I can see that it’s not true. My job allows me to talk about Diversity and Inclusion at length and how it affects minorities and I’m surprised at how few people have this topic come up often in their lives. I think it’s important to read books like this and have your ideas challenged. Slavery is history but not ancient history. 

Writer’s Takeaway: The twist that Whitehead saved for the end was my favorite part. I won’t say too much here about it so no spoilers! I will say that he created a legend that lived for most of the story before it was resolved quickly at the end and had me rethink a lot of the book and opinions and comments that came out because of it. I’m interested to see how the screen adaptation has taken this.

A well done and thorough novel. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts: 
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: ‘If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails’ | Gerry in Literature
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead | The Book Stop 
Review: ‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead | Ephmereality 
The Underground Railroad | Afterlives of Slavery

WWW Wednesday, 2-June-2021

2 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I read a few pages from Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono but not enough to brag about it. I’ll be slow going through this and I’m really okay with that. I know I’ll finish eventually. With all my upcoming doctors’ appointments, maybe that will give me some time.
I made some progress with The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko but I’ve stopped for my buddy read. I’ll get back to it between segments so I’ll keep moving forward but it may be a while.
I was able to start A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and I’m liking it so far! Ready buddy and I are meeting on Friday to talk about the first section and I should be able to finish in time without too much trouble. This one is moving at a good pace.
I had a few false starts with audiobooks this week. Right now, I’m trying my hand at New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson. I’m not won over by the writing just yet but the idea is original and I can see how it could be a fun read. I’ll give it another day or two before I decide if I’m going to stick around for the 22 hours it will demand.

Recently finished: I wrapped up The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead on Thursday and enjoyed the ending. I’m excited to see the screen adaptation soon and I wonder how they portrayed the railroad! I hope to have a review up next week. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading next: If I ever finish my ebook, I’ll pick up Dollface by Renee Rosen next. I’m looking forward to some enjoyable fiction so I’m hoping this comes soon!

Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 26-May-2021

26 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


HangmanCurrently reading: I did get through a chapter of Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono this week so we’re back on the train with this one. I think it will go quickly if I can keep to a chapter per week, but that’s proving harder than I thought it would.
I’m still dragging through The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko. The disjointed story is still hard for me to get into. I think it’s going to start coming together soon, or at least I really hope it does so I don’t lose interest.
I’ve just about finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead so expect this to be reviewed next week. I need the satisfaction of finishing something!

Recently finished: Hopefully, something will be on this list next week.

MoscowReading next: The plan is still to read Dollface by Renee Rosen once I finish de Bono. I hope that’s soon.
Reading buddy and I picked our next book and it’s going to be A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. My copy got here on Monday and I’m really excited to get started with it! I loved the other Towles book I read a few years ago so I think this will be a fun one.

Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 19-May-2021

19 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


LateralCurrently reading: Last week was great, this week is slow. I didn’t even open Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono so no progress to report there. It will come eventually, right?
I’m going slow through The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko because it’s so disjointed that I have yet to get into it. There are a lot of characters that seem very loosely connected but it feels like short stories instead of a novel so far and I’m getting frustrated.
The book where I’ve made the most progress is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This is a well done audiobook and the book took a turn I wasn’t expecting that sucked me in. Not sure I’ll be done next week but I’ll get through it in good time.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week. I’ll be optimistic that I’ll have something next week, but that seems like a bit of a stretch at this point.

DollfaceReading next: I’m hoping to start Dollface by Renee Rosen as an ebook because I need some 1920s in my life! That period always seems to suck me in.

Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 12-May-2021

12 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


UndergroundCurrently reading: I think I read a chapter from Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono this week but that’s about it. I’m not happy about moving so slowly, but I’ll come to terms with it eventually. I’ll finish it, but maybe I want to shy away from nonfiction for this format in the future.
I made some decent progress in The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko. I’m a little iffy on this one right now, it seems to be rambling a bit and I’m unsure how it might all come back together.
I started listening to The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead on Sunday but I’m not far into it yet. It’s a long book so I expect this will be here for a while, though I hope I can power through.

PetticoatsRecently finished: I finished up The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee! After taking a break from it for so long, it was great to finish this one. I posted my review yesterday so you can check that out. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.
I also finished Recursion by Blake Crouch and I’m meeting with my reading buddy tonight to talk about it. I found the end a bit too convenient, but this is a book I still thoroughly enjoyed and I would recommend to people who liked Crouch’s first book. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

I also posted my review for Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal on Thursday last week. My book club met on Monday to discuss it so look for a summary of that conversation early next week.

DollfaceReading next: I still think Dollface by Renee Rosen will be my next ebook. I just need to read ebooks faster so I need a new one!

Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 5-May-2021

5 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


LateralCurrently reading: I didn’t move through Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono this week. I’m really not too worried about it, but I’m hoping I can return to it fairly soon and make some more progress!
I was able to get back to The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee and I’m flying. I love the narrator for this one. While I’m not as enamored as I was with Lee’s first book, I’m still enjoying this and I think I can finish it within the week!
Reading Buddy and I are just about finished with Recursion by Blake Crouch. We met Monday and I’m now reading the last section so we can have our final meeting! Expect a review soon and this should easily be off here next week.
I’m reading The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko between sections of the Crouch. I’m not too far yet and still unsure what to think of it. The style is very different but still enjoyable enough that I’ll keep going.

PunjabiRecently finished: I wrapped up Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal as expected last week. I liked this one more than I expected from the title. It’s a very timely book about culture and understanding and I really liked what Jaswal had to say. I think it will be a good discussion with my book club. I was able to post my review yesterday if you want to read more. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

UndergroundReading next: I’m sold on Dollface by Renee Rosen being my next ebook. I just need to get to a point where I’m ready to start one!
I think I’ll need a new audiobook soon, too. Next up will be The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This was supposed to be a book club pick but got delayed due to COVID and seems to be permanently on hold. I’d still like to enjoy it and if we do eventually read it, I’ll be ahead of the curve.

Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.