There has been a lot of hype surrounding the newly released The Underground Railroad. Twitter, Litsy, and Goodread users are going wild for it. There’s interview after interview being given by the author. It’s an Oprah pick. And it even caused a big buzz with an early release. I’ll admit all of the (very positive) attention caused me to not only read the book, but read it as soon as I could.
It mostly lived up to the hype for me. (And I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.) On more than one night I stayed up late to keep reading the book, even though I require a decent amount of sleep to not feel like a cranky (and sometimes ill) zombie. Also, I kept thinking about the book while not reading it. It does an excellent job, in multiple ways, of showing the brutality of slavery and the racism that existed during that time (and with a little thought the reader can see how it still exists in similar forms today).
I like the way the story was told. The book regularly shifts the focus between chapters of the main story and then a special focus on one of the non-main characters. For me that layout made the book readable, especially with a book with such a heavy and brutal main story. The story also had a matter of fact tone that made it easier to read about such horrible things happening to people. I didn’t feel like I was being emotionally manipulated for tears. Basically there was lots of trauma, but it didn’t feel like trauma porn. There weren’t 3 page rape scenes or whippings that lasted for 2 pages, for example.
I highly recommend this book: buy it, borrow it, or check it out from the library. (Speaking of libraries. If you try to put a hold on this book, good luck. There is probably a ridiculously long wait list. But I got mine as a Lucky Day book. Many libraries have Lucky Day programs where you have to walk into the library to check it out–no holds– but you can’t renew it, so that others can get lucky too.)