New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring and At the Edge of the Orchard Tracy Chevalier makes her first fictional foray into the American past in The Last Runaway, bringing to life the Underground Railroad and illuminating the principles, passions and realities that fueled this extraordinary freedom movement.
Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker, moves to Ohio in 1850--only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape. Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.
However, Honor is drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, where she befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.
Chevalier's (Girl with a Pearl Earring) haunting seventh novel delves into the difference between a theory of belief and its practice. When young Quaker Honor Bright's fianc breaks off the relationship to marry outside the faith, Honor goes to America in 1850 with her sister, Grace. Grace is engaged to marry Adam Cox, a young man from their hometown who followed his brother to Faithwell, Ohio. Unfortunately, Grace dies en route, and Honor arrives in Ohio to find Adam sharing a house with Abigail, his sister-in-law, made a widow by the death of Adam's brother. Honor moves into the house, but feels tense and unwelcome. In Belle Mills, a milliner who appreciates Honor's sewing skills, Honor finds a friend and ally. Honor also draws the attention of Belle's brother, Donovan, a slave hunter, and Jack Haymaker, a local farmer, a man "like a pulled muscle that Honor sensed every time she moved." They marry and Honor, drawn by her sympathies into helping the Underground Railroad, is forced to choose between living her beliefs and merely speaking them. The birth of her own child raises the stakes, and she takes a unique stand in her untenable situation. Honor's aching loneliness, overwhelming kindness, and stubborn convictions are beautifully rendered, as are the complexities of all the supporting characters and the vastness of the harsh landscape. Honor's quiet determination provides a stark contrast to the roiling emotions of the slave issue, the abolitionist fight, and the often personal consequences. Chevalier's thought-provoking, lyrical novel doesn't allow any of her characters an easy way out.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The Last Runaway
I really liked the book. As a quilter I enjoyed all the history about the different quilt patterns and techniques. The way Tracy intertwined the story with the struggle of the slaves fleeing the southern states and seeking freedom in the north was riveting. It showed us what a dangerous time it was for all and how some people would risk everything to help their fellow man.
The last runaway
Not an interesting book, very dull. Always waiting to see what it is about- waste of time.
From beginning to end, loved it. What a story of a woman 150 years ago who had the courage to stand for her convictions!