This novel is fiction, but it peels back the wounds of slavery in the United States. In this universe, the Underground Railroad is a literal train carrying escaped trains north to a tenuous freedom. Cora escapes the cruelty of life on a Georgia plantation to the railroad making several stops along the way. South Carolina appears to be a haven where African Americans live in a company town, but as Cora ends up working as a living exhibit in an anthropology museum, she learns that the whole town is a front for eugenics experiments. North Carolina is a place where slavery is ended by attempting genocide, and Cora has to hide in a sympathetic white man’s attic where she witnesses the regular pageants accompanying the lynching of blacks and white helpers. A slave catcher brings Cora to a wild west version of Tennessee, and she escapes again to a community of freed blacks in Indiana. Even here she can’t find any peace.
The magical and mythical elements frame a novel that contains the full brutality of slavery and racism in the United States. It’s a brilliant construct that brings home the reality of America’s grim secrets.
Recommended books: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin