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The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
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The Last Runaway (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Tracy Chevalier

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609None16,271 (3.87)38
Member:jo2son
Title:The Last Runaway
Authors:Tracy Chevalier
Info:Dutton Adult (2013), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:read in 2012, Ohio, historical fiction, quilting, immigration, 1850, Quaker, Underground Railroad, Goodreads giveaway

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The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (2013)

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
I listened to this as an audiobook. In general, I do not like audiobooks as they do not hold my attention, and I seem to constantly rewind. However this one was different. Once it caught me, I could hardly put it down! Kudos to the narrator. She did a wonderful job giving life to the characters and giving them each distinctive vocal patterns.

This is the story of Honor Bright, an English Quaker who accompanies her sister, Grace, to the US for her impending marriage. But before they reach their destination in Faithful, Ohio, Grace succumbs to yellow fever. Unfortunately, Honor is unable to return to England as she was seasick the entire trip across and most likely would not survive a second crossing. Instead, she moves in with her ‘almost’ brother-in-law, Adam, and his sister-in-law, Abigail, who had also recently lost her husband.

I really, really liked the characters in the story; even the ‘bad guy’ slave hunter, Donovan! In fact, even though his occupation really was despicable, and he was unrelenting in his administration of the Fugitive Slave Law, he was one of my favorite characters. I liked the chemistry between Donovan and Honor. Between Honor and Jack, not so much. I also grew fond of the milliner, Belle. She was very down-to-earth, and not afraid to speak her mind.

The author did an excellent job describing Ohio life in the mid-1800s. Her detailed descriptions of quilt patterns and the Belle’s hats, as well as the food prepared and eaten really added to the story. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the differences that Honor encountered in America from what she was used to in England.

The one thing I wasn’t so crazy about was the end. I wish things could have worked out differently, but then, I’d probably be complaining if the end had been different. Honor was in a difficult situation and there was no ‘easy’ answer. I guess I’d have liked to have seen different decisions by Honor earlier in the book. I also would have liked to have seen more interaction between Abigail and Honor later in the book. Abigail was kind of dropped about halfway through the book and Adam was not seen much more.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. I will definitely look for other books by this author, and would probably even be willing to listen to them in audiobook form! This book would be a good selection for book clubs as the discuss Honor’s ethical dilemmas and pre-Civil War events. ( )
  Time2Read2 | Apr 10, 2014 |
I love Tracy Chevalier. When I read her books I get transported into the story,and this book was no exception.It is filled with warmth and local color. Honor Bright is a young British Quaker who travels with her sister to Ohio. She looses her sister to yellow fever and then must try to make her own way. I learned about Quakerism, heroism, farm life, quilting and all through Honor who I learned to love. I was so rooting for her and glad with a satisfactory ending. ( )
  Smits | Mar 23, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book, but felt like it could have been better. It's a little bit slow to get going, with the main character's journey to Ohio taking up much of the early section. The details regarding Honor's involvement with the Underground Railroad are the most interesting part of the book, I just wish that the section was more in depth. ( )
  yankeesfan1 | Feb 26, 2014 |
What drew me to this book are my family roots in the Midwest and the Quaker faith. The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier is set in the 1850s and in Ohio. Honor Bright decides to leave Dorset, England go with her sister to America after she was jilted. Embarrassed and disappointed she wants a fresh start. Her sister, Grace is betrothed to Adam Cox in the little farming community of Faithwell, which is very close to Oberlin. This was the time of the Underground Railroad but a new law was coming to punish those who hid and fed runaway slaves. That law would put a big strain and threatened their livelihood on those who participated in helping the runaways. They could go to prison and lose their farms.

Her sister dies of yellow fever and Honor has to either return to Dorset in England or marry someone. Choices were very limited for a young unattached woman. She could temporarily live with the Cox family but she was made to feel unwelcome.

Honor experiences great differences between the life in Ohio and England, in clothes, customs, food, Quaker meetings and types of houses. I was amazed at how Tracy Chevalier accurately captured the lifestyle of the farmers in the Midwest. There are things that in this book that are only known by Midwesterners today. And the meals eaten were similar to what I remember as a child visiting my aunts and uncle on the farm. I have had some of the same farm experiences in the 1950s. I know that the author researched Quaker people in that period in the Midwest. I wonder how she learned about the secrets. I will not tell you what they are so you can discover them in this book.

Besides the story of the Quaker farming community, the Underground Railroad this is also one of a young woman with very few choices and how she coped.

I highly recommend this book to all American Historical fiction lovers. ( )
  Carolee888 | Feb 11, 2014 |
I really enjoyed the setting of the book and the details about Quaker life and farming in 1840s Ohio. Unfortunately, I couldn't bring myself to care about the dull and judgmental heroine, who seems to devote more emotional energy to being critical of her neighbors' quilting preferences and love of rocking chairs than she does to grieving the loss of her sister or deciding who she ought to marry.

I had hoped the novel's plot would involve a lot more detail about the Underground Railroad than it does--but this is not really primarily a story about escaped slaves at all, but the story of a young Quaker woman struggling to find a balance between doing what she thinks is right and accommodating the views of her community and family. Readers going in expecting that to be the primary focus may enjoy it more than I did.
( )
  mrlzbth | Feb 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:51 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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