Description Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction. Winner of the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction. The latest book club pick from Oprah and it's also on Obama's summer reading list. The central conceit of the novel is as simple as it is bold. The underground railroad is not, in Whitehead’s novel, the secret network of passageways and safe houses used by runaway slaves to reach the free North from their slaveholding states. Or rather it is that, but it is something else, too: You open a trap door in the safe house or find the entrance to a hidden cave, and you reach an actual railroad, with actual locomotives and boxcars and conductors, sometimes complete with benches on the platform. “Two steel rails ran the visible length of the tunnel,” Whitehead writes, “pinned into the dirt by wooden crossties. The steel ran south and north presumably, springing from some inconceivable source and shooting toward a miraculous terminus.” The trains pass at unpredictable times and go to unpredictable places, but that is obviously good enough for those wanting to flee the misery and violence of slavery: its sheer inhumanity, a word that in Whitehead’s unflinching explorations seems to fill up with new meanings.