Going deep

The Underground Railroad

Yes, it really is that good. Many of Oprah Winfrey’s book club picks are longer on sentiment than substance, but in the case of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad: A Novel (Doubleday, $26.95), the talk show host has given her followers a brilliant novel from the Toni Morrison of the next generation. Whitehead, who’s been writing really good novels for a long time (see his 2010 book Zone One for the best literary zombie novel ever), moves into a mash-up of brutal and magical realism in this examination of the seeping wound that is America’s history with slavery. Cora, a young enslaved woman, decides to run away—and there is no doubt about having good cause for it—but in Whitehead’s reimagining, the Underground Railroad is a real railroad that is underground. By turns beautiful and gruesome, Whitehead’s novel is exactly like our country.