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The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

The Last Runaway (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Tracy Chevalier

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8666910,292 (3.82)51
Title:The Last Runaway
Authors:Tracy Chevalier
Info:Dutton Adult (2013), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (2013)

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Tracy Chevalier is so skilled at getting under the skin of the protagonist in a specific period whether it's a 19th century fossil collector or a 15th century Belgian weaver, you always believe her.
Honor Bright is a real person from page 1 of ‘The Last Runaway’ and you are rooting for her. The book tackles a difficult subject: the rights and wrongs of helping escaping slaves, and the moral issue this poses for Ohio’s Quakers. Honor struggles to understand this sometimes frightening new country with its huge skies and geometrical roads, forthright people and different social rules. Even the air seems strange. “I feel when I am in it as if the air around me has shifted and is not the same air I breathed and moved in back in England, but is some other substance,” she writes to her parents.
Chevalier does her research thoroughly, but feels no need to wave the depth of her research in her reader’s face. Instead it informs every simple description. Woven throughout the book is Honor’s sewing of quilts. Even this is different in Ohio where Honor’s calm nature and precise sewing is admired by the local hat-wearing ladies, but her needle workmanship is deemed overly exact for the local Quaker ladies who prefer to quickly sew appliqué quilts rather than take time to plan traditional patchwork designs.
Strong women play a key role in the book. Honor is a strong character, though perhaps she does not know it. Belle Mills, the local milliner is strong too. Honor describes Belle, “If women were meant to look like doves these days, Belle resembled a buzzard.” The quilt Honor most admires is owned and made by Mrs Reed, a small black woman who decorates her hat with fresh wildflowers.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Nov 13, 2015 |
This is the story of a young English Quaker, Honor Bright, who comes to live in Ohio in 1850. She settles in a farming town near Oberlin. Honor finds herself challenged by many new and unfamiliar situations, the most significant being the frequent appearance of slaves navigating the Underground Railroad. By virtue of being a Quaker, she is opposed to slavery, but Honor is confronted with numerous unsettling and dangerous consequences of that conviction. Can she be a Quaker and still follow the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law? How does that conviction impact her family, her friends and her own self image?
I really liked this book. I enjoyed it as historical fiction and felt challenged by the unintended consequences of choices made by individuals in the novel. Highly recommended. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
Honor Bright comes to America to accompany her sister to her wedding. Although her own ocean crossing is horrific in terms of seasickness, it is her sister who succumbs to illness and does not make it to their final destination. Being a young, sheltered Quaker woman in 1850’s Ohio Honor finds there is no way to make a life for herself except to marry. And that is exactly what she does, to an honorable and hardworking dairy farmer. A chance encounter with a runaway slave introduces Honor the Underground Railway, the fugitive Slave Act, a bounty hunter and makes Honor question her own faith as a Quaker. What does one do when the teachings of an entire lifetime come to a grinding halt in the face of reality?

Ms. Chevalier’s writing has always managed to get me wrapped up in the story. The Last Runaway is no exception. But she gives us so much more than just the story itself (captivating as it is). She gives us the color (and barrenness) of the time, some insight into the differences of this new America of the mid 1800’s compared to the civility of England and a taste of the traditions and beliefs of the Quakers who settle the land. She even manages a little enlightenment into traditional vs. new world quilting (not an integral part of the story, but very interesting. This book is an example of historical fiction the way it’s supposed to be done.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
I am a very happy reader of the author's other books (own them all in fact). This latest one did not have quite the sheer intensity or emotional punch as others. I realized this because the story flowed more enjoyably! It actually could have been longer to dwell on the historical details as I really liked the quilting and hat-making information. Also many comments on the difference between England and frontier America (which makes me think of my own immigrant ancestors at a similar time, though not Quaker). As for the Quaker aspect, I don't feel much more informed or embedded in the community. Much is conveyed well through dialogue and Honor's thoughts, so perhaps I just need to do my own research.

Overall, a very good historical novel on a particular time and place and how one young woman handled some truly unbearable circumstances. Chevalier doesn't really write sequels, but I wouldn't mind checking in on Honor in a few years to see how the ending here really did work out. ( )
  amarie | May 11, 2015 |
Tracy Chevalier is an excellent story teller and this tale of Honor Bright, a Quaker who sets off from Bridport to the New World, doesn't disappoint. ( )
  sianpr | Mar 29, 2015 |
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This book is dedicated to Catoctin Quaker Camp and Oberlin College: two places that shaped and guided my younger self
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She could not go back.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0525952993, Hardcover)

New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring 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.

In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who 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, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor 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.

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is Tracy Chevalier’s vivid engagement with an iconic part of American history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:09 -0400)

Forced to leave England and struggling with illness in the wake of a family tragedy, Quaker Honor Bright is forced to rely on strangers in the harsh landscape of 1850 Ohio and is compelled to join the Underground Railroad network to help runaway slaves escape to freedom.… (more)

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