Ben Winters’ unsettling new novel, Underground Airlines, takes place in an an alternative United States where the Civil War never occurred and slavery still exists in four states. The book centers around Victor, a former enslaved person who took a job as a Federal bounty hunter in exchange for his freedom. Tasked with tracking down a recently escaped slave known only as Jackdaw, Victor travels to Indianapolis in order to insinuate himself into the the local chapter of the Underground Airlines. the abolitionist movement. Yet as he untangles Jackdaw’s flight to freedom, Victor realizes that none of the people around him—from Jackdaw to Victor’s enigmatic boss—are what they seem. NPR dubbed Underground Airlines “indisputably a winner” and Ann Patchett praised it in Time, noting that it “kept me up at night and changed the way I saw the world once I was finished.” Ben Winters spoke to Brendan Dowling via e-mail on August 16th.
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