I have to admit, when I first heard about The Underground Railroad I was hesitant to read it. I’m so over slave narratives that they have to be exceptionally done to capture my interest. It’s rare for me to find one I truly enjoy. I was doubly hesitant when Oprah chose it for her book club and spearheaded it’s early release. I haven’t had the best experiences with her choices in the past. After skimming a few early reviews, my interest was peaked to find out that in this story The Underground Railroad was indeed an actual railroad! Super cool concept, I’m excited! Sign me up! Alas, I wished that the railroad would have been included in more depth. That instead of simple metaphorical imagery the author would have taken it ALL THE WAY, almost to the point of magical realism.
For me, there were hints of boredom in the beginning, but I tried to talk myself out of it. I was thinking it’s just me, you have a short attention span, you’re still having a book hangover, etc. I kept asking myself if I was bored, and as I always say, “if you gotta ask…” Once I reached the halfway point it was official. I was bored. The only thing that gave me hope were the small tidbits of historical facts hinted at and thrown in every now and then. Such as the reference to the The Tuskegee Airmen study and other historical happenings.
The pacing and flow were not smooth. There were rapid accelerations, then long drawn out lulls in forward momentum, a.k.a. filler. Also, I think the author spent too much time giving more than enough backstory to characters that weren’t significant. This added to the slowing down of the plot, which was hard to deal with when there were main characters whose storylines were vague and not flushed out enough. One of the main characters that sets the entire book into motion is basically ghosted out of the story, reappears for an all too brief second, and vanishes again! WTH?!
The ending was def meh. It seemed rushed and non-cohesive. I’m on the fence 3-3.5 stars. The writing was decent, the railroad aspect was clever, but I did not have a strong connection to the characters at all. If something bad happened, it was like ok, who or what is next?? Yes, the topic is hard to read about, and yes there are explicit acts of cruelty, but it’s true to history. The story has VERY interesting historic references, but they are sparingly thrown in and unfortunately, they were not enough to overpower this slow narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need action, action, action, but…idk, something was missing. Everyone is enamoured with this novel!!! I’m definitely feeling like the odd man out. It’s not terrible, and I’m happy for Colson that his book is reaching the masses thanks to Oprah. But REALLY, Oprah? For real?!
*Thank you NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.