The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead ($26.95) is a harrowing story of pre-Civil War slave life and a powerful allegory of race relations. Like her mother Mabel before her, a young slave girl, Cora, runs away from a cotton plantation in Georgia where the brutal treatment of slaves is a daily occurrence. Cora is haunted by Mabel’s disappearance; she has never been found nor has she contacted her daughter. Cora makes her own escape and finds herself on the Underground Railroad, which in Whitehead’s imagined South is an actual railroad, running on tracks through deep tunnels under the earth. Throughout her journey north, Cora exists between terror and hope. She is obsessively pursued by the same slave catcher who was unable to capture her mother and faces cruel and fantastical encounters with racism’s many faces at every stop on the railroad.