The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club)

  • by Colson Whitehead
  • Narrated by Bahni Turpin
  • 10 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2017
The Newest Oprah Book Club 2016 Selection
From prize-winning, bestselling author Colson Whitehead, a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver's Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

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What the Critics Say

"Bahni Turpin's narration is near perfection as she captures the emotional heart of this audiobook.... By using well-crafted dialect and authentic-sounding accents, Turpin believably dramatizes the wide range of characters.... Turpin's strong performance combined with author Whitehead's affecting writing makes this the one audiobook you cannot miss." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Stupendous book, hard to follow in audio

I started this on a drive but ended up buying the Kindle version and reading it. It's one of the best books I ever read; deeply moving, vivid, and important. But his time cuts and character introductions make it hard to follow as a listener. The reader was fine; it's the book's structure that's challenging.
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- JQR

Yes, No, No

Any additional comments?

So. Oprah's Book Club. National Book Award. Pulitzer. Wow - is this book up to such accolades? My answer: Yes, No, No in that order. Oprah's Book Club choices seem to be more politically motivated than they used to be, which is fine. I consider a nomination to her book club now as a cautionary label for a book, but not necessarily a flag to avoid it completely. However, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction I consider to be erudite, heavy hitting accolades that recognize literary craftsmanship, which includes writing skill as much as plot and character development. While this book was indeed good - I loved the imaginative distillation of a true railroad system - I did not find the writing to be timelessly classic (E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News) or... timelessly classic (Steinbeck, Stegner, for example). Alas, I am citing books from decades ago. Recent picks, like The Goldfinch and All The Light... are lite compared to their shelfmates, and that is to my disappointment and the dilution, in my opinion, of these awards. That being said, the book was a rewarding read, and fully of shocking revelations of cruelty and sadism that boggle the mind.

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- Kaui

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-02-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audio