"It was late, but a bone expert from Chicago had presented that night and they might still be carousing in the local saloons."The stakes of the plot are much more grave than anything I want to pontificate about on why Chicago is mentioned so many times, even if only in passing, particularly given our city's complex racial history and the context of the novel.
"Many of the farm's leaders were out of town. Valentine himself was in Chicago meeting with the banks, his two sons in tow now that they were old enough to help with the farm's accounts."
"A prominent abolitionist stopped for a day en route to Chicago and stayed for a week."
"A little boy blew the whistle and the shucking began in a frenzy. This year's prize was a large silver mirror Valentine had picked up in Chicago."
"They put up a library next to the smokehouse. The room smelled pleasantly of smoke when Cora sat down in one of the big chairs with Valentine's books. Royal said it was the biggest collection of negro literature this side of Chicago."
"Cora spent most of the day in her bedroom with the latest almanac Royal had given her. He'd picked it up in Chicago."
The city is portrayed in a mostly positive light, as these references describe Chicago as a city with bone experts and books (the city is educated), with banks (it is wealthy), it has mirrors (it has material goods), and people go there (it is a destination).