Have you ever read one of those books that haunted you with its beautiful yet brutal story? That kept you spellbound with terse sentences that depicted the scenes better with words not said? Hemingway did it. Now I count The Underground Railroad as another. I mean, look at this:
The slave catcher had little choice but to call upon the man after midnight. He daintily sewed their hoods from white sacks of flour but could barely move his fingers after their visit–his fists swelled for two days from beating the man’s face in.
By Colson Whitehead
Short description: a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South
In this story, the underground railroad is a real thing: with steam trains, conductors and engineers and secret codes. Cora, the protagonist, goes through stations in her bid for freedom and encounters a version of America as it might have been. The South and North Carolina she encounters aren’t “real” in the sense of historical accuracy. Yet it terrifies you with its ring of truth and plausibility.