The escape from slavery is one of the most powerful of American stories, but it usually leads in a single direction: north. Whitehead’s railroad, as you might guess from the cover image, doesn’t run in such a straight line. An escape might lead to a greater hell, or to an oddly unsettling heaven. Whitehead doesn’t shy from the worst of slavery’s horrors, but he nudges the history we know slightly off track (his underground railroad, for one thing, really is a railroad), opening up a space of strange uncertainty that he fills with a vividly human cast of characters, especially his hero, Cora. It’s a colossally ambitious story, but Whitehead tells it with a light step, a heavy heart, and a breathtaking clarity.
—Tom Nissley, Phinney Books, Seattle, WA
You, too, can find “the most talked-about novel coming this fall” at Phinney Books and other independent bookstores.