National Book Award, that is. I was about twenty pages into The Underground Railroad when the thought struck me, “This book is going to win the National Book Award.” I bring this up not to tout my prescience (since there’s nothing there to tout) but to show what a force this novel is. Even in a chapter or two, it showed that it had everything: great prose, terrific characters, narrative magic, vivid descriptions (even when they are of hideous actions), and a powerful social commentary (often essential in prize winners). Read it.
In case you’re wondering, I have been right precisely one other time, when I finished Orhan Pamuk’s Snow and thought, “Someday, this guy will win the Nobel Prize.” Even then, I was wrong. My “someday” meant, in a decade or so, not in three months.