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Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad a new Oprah pick!

Originally set for release on September 13th, Doubleday set a precedent by shipping 200,000 copies of Colson Whitehead's newest blockbuster to bookstores in secret. One lucky recipient was Oprah Winfrey. Now Mr. Whitehead is getting the "Oprah bump," meaning it was selected as an Oprah pick for September. The Underground Railroad will be Whitehead's eighth and most highly anticipated novel. A recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship, Whitehead was also a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for his second novel, John Henry Days (2001). In the current novel, the author imagines that clandestine system of safe houses and secret routes as an actual "underground railroad". But this is not a marvel to gawk at, as Whitehead only sparingly refers to the actual railroad underground. Rather, he creates a virtual hell on earth for a slave in Georgia named Cora. She is left behind when her mother manages to escape -- a rarity at this particular location. Cora sees the depraved violence and murder that takes place on Mr. Randall's plantation. With escape and the struggle for refuge, Whitehead manages to humanize the characters. In Cora we have a strong, resilient, outspoken and proud woman willing to face all obstacles in order to be free. Even given the surreal atmosphere of Whitehead's literal underground railroad, readers will sympathize with Cora's statement that “Freedom was a thing that shifted as you looked at it.” In doing research for the novel, Whitehead told NPR, "Slavery was one thing in Maryland in the 1780's. It was another thing in Georgia once the cotton boom starts up in the early 1800's. There are plantations that have two slaves, plantations that have 80 slaves, and just seeing the variety of the slave experience allowed me to have less anxiety about making my own plantation, because there are so many different combinations that existed." With that research he has created a wonderfully complex depiction of our very real past.

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Read the book, saw the movie. What's Next after "Me Before You"?

Missing Will and Louisa from "Me Before You"? Jojo Moyes created memorable characters in the 2012 book and the movie released this year carried the legacy well. I was swept away by Louisa's transformation and how much I wanted to know more about her. Last year, the follow-up novel, "After You" carried the story forward. Personally, the sequel was as good as the original. I can highly recommend it. However, if you are like me and want EVEN more, I've got more titles that create wonderfully romantic and moving stories of unique individuals. All of these titles are found in the adult fiction section. First, Rowan Coleman brings us "We Are All Made of Stars" with thought-provoking and optimistic characters that we can all root for. Next, I recommend "Lily and the Octopus" by Steven Rowley. This heartbreaking, intimate novel focuses on love, loss, and grief whereas Michelle Wildgen's novel "You're Not You" focuses more on the new relationships young adults form when becoming caretakers to others confined to wheelchairs. For them, it becomes a life changing transformation. Transform your reading experience by diving into some life-affirming stories. For more suggestions, stop by the Fiction Desk and ask for me!!!

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Need a fictitious departure from reality?

Called a "laugh-out-loud" novel of ambition and marriage and politics, Jennifer Close's "The Hopefuls" may bring a smile to those that want a break from the realities of the current election cycle. The story centers around Beth who follows her husband Matt first to Washington, D.C. and eventually Texas in pursuit of his political aspirations. At first she is willing to sacrifice everything but grows bored until the couple meet-cute another politically ambitious couple. Evangelical Ash and charismatic Jimmy become fast friends with Beth and Matt.

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