Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all slaves, but Cora is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is coming into womanhood; even greater pain awaits. Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her of the Underground Railroad and they plot their escape.
Like Gulliver, Cora encounters different worlds on each leg of her journey...Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors of black life in pre-Civil War America. 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.
Georgia functions like a typical slave state. There are large plantations that house many slaves. Cora was born here and has been on her own since her mother escaped when Cora was nine. All she has of her own is a very small plot of land where she grows some vegetables. After she violently defends her plot from an interloper, she is an outcast among the slaves.
When the master dies and the plantation is in the hands of his sadistic sons, an educated slave convinces Cora to escape with him. He tells her about the Underground Railroad. This is a literal railroad underground with stations under houses of abolitionists. There aren’t many stations now. Service is erratic at best and no trains may come at all. They run and catch the train.
Slavery is illegal here. Former slaves are educated and given places to live. They have jobs and the ability to live a peaceful and productive life. But there is a strange tension. There is a feeling of something sinister under the surface of this utopia.
African-Americans are banned here. Labor is done by immigrants from Europe. The penalty for an African-American being in the state or a white person helping a black person is death.
Tennessee is dismal and bleak. The slave catcher finds her here but she escapes with help from some other escapees.
In this free state, black people live happily on a prosperous farm but will they be allowed to keep their enclave?
This book addresses a lot in a short space.
The hierarchy of slaves
White people reluctant to help to free people
Black people helping to catch escaping slaves
What is an ideal society?
My only issue with this book is that there is a jarring change of story structure in Tennessee that took me completely out of the story. I had to work to get back into it. I’ve talked to other people who have read this and they agree that it was strange. That’s the only reason why I’m going with 4.5 stars instead of 5.
I loved the idea of making it a literal train and exploring each state as a different form of government. It lets him examine what might have been after emancipation if different ideas took hold.
Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.
Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.
Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…
I loved the premise of the British Army using mediums to communicate with soldiers killed in battle in order to find out more about enemy troop movements. This takes place in 1916 during World War I in France during the Battle of the Somme.
This book is a great historical fantasy/mystery but it also addresses issues of class and race in the British Army at the time.
Ginger is the American niece of the titular head of the Spirit Corps. She attends all the briefings because she is better suited for that duty. Her aunt is in charge though because she is a Lady.
The most powerful medium is a West Indian woman named Helen. She isn’t known to be the mastermind behind the program because she is black and the army command won’t consider listening to her.
Indian soldiers aren’t trained on how to report in after death. They feel that it is a slight stemming from the fact that the white officers don’t feel that they wouldn’t be able to report accurate information.
Married women regardless of their abilities are not allowed to participate until things get desperate.
The women of the Spirit Corp are thought to be there to help morale in clubs like USOs. No one outside knows that they also spend time talking to the dead. No one thinks of this because they are women so how could they be doing anything vital?
I can’t talk much about the actual plot without giving away some spoilers. No men know how the Spirit Corp trains soldiers to report in. Only a few know who the mediums are. The Germans know that it is happening but want to find out how it all works. There is a spy and Ginger goes to investigate because she is one of the few people who knows all parts of the operation.
I loved the first half of the book. For me the story bogged down a little in the second half so I gave it 3.5 stars instead of 4. I’d recommend this to any historical fiction or paranormal fans.
People often say, I feel like I've been run over by a truck. Katie actually was. On a sunny morning bike ride in Brooklyn, twenty-four-year-old Katie McKenna was forever changed when she was run over by an eighteen-wheeler. Being crushed under a massive semi wasn't something Katie should have survived. After ten hours of emergency surgery, she woke to find herself in a body and a life that would never be the same. In this brutally honest and surprisingly funny memoir, Katie recalls the pivotal event and the long, confusing road to recovery that followed. Between the unprepared nudity in front of her parents post-surgery, hospital happy hours, and the persistent fear that she would never walk again, Katie details the struggles she's faced navigating her new reality. This inspiring memoir follows Katie's remarkable journey to let go of her old life and fall in love with her new one.
This was the first book I read that I received at BEA. It was handed to me when I was on my way off the floor one day so it didn’t get packed up with the rest of the books I was shipping home. (I started it that night in a Jamaican restaurant that served me the most amazing avocado and plantain sandwich.)
Katie was riding in Brooklyn in the early morning. She pulled up next to a semi that did not signal that he was turning. When the light turned, the truck pulled into her lane, knocking her over and running over her abdomen with 8 wheels before stopping.
What I find amazing about this is that she never lost consciousness. It probably would have been better. She was able to tell witnesses her name and had them call her parents before the ambulance got there. Because she was talking, her parents didn’t realize the severity of her injuries until they got to the hospital.
In an instant she went from a healthy woman with no major issues in her life to a person completely dependent on other people for her every need. She was taken to a hospital well equipped to deal with major trauma. However, this hospital’s main purpose was treating prisoners so when she is recovered enough to get out of ICU, her quality of care falls dramatically. This is where this book is difficult to deal with at times. As a young white woman who is not in custody, with parents who are able to advocate for her, she is able to get out of this situation. She also causes problems for several doctors who give her straight answers to her questions without coddling her. She seems to only want to hear happy answers about her prognosis and anyone who doesn’t go along with this suddenly is getting the brunt of her family calling their supervisors and demanding that they never get to speak with her again. Several times while reading this I paused to be grateful once again that I don’t work in human medicine.
I would recommend this book for anyone who ever wondered what to say to someone dealing with a life changing diagnosis or injury.
ARCs are meant to roam so if anyone would like to read this, leave a comment and I’ll send it to you. If you would like to send a few dollars to help cover shipping that would be appreciated.