The Last Runaway
March 8, 2013
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Tracy Chevalier author of Girl With A Pearl Earring has written a new book The Last Runaway (B) appropriately titled as it deals with runaway slaves. The network of those who helped the slaves flee is known as the Underground Railroad. Many books written about this time are often set in the South and during the Civil War. The Last Runaway is a bit different taking place in pre-War Ohio.
It begins in England where Honor and her sister Grace are preparing to journey to America. Grace’s finance, Adam, has established himself in Ohio. They are Quakers and will settle in a village with other Quaker families. Honor has decided to accompany Grace because her own engagement has just been broken. She is embarrassed to stay in England and believes she can start again in America. The voyage over is horrific for her and she vows that she will never cross the ocean again. America will become her permanent home. Once they arrive on the American shores, Grace becomes ill and dies. Having nowhere to go, Honor continues to Adam in Ohio. The situation is awkward for Honor in Adam’s home. She finds it difficult to adapt to the American way of life; in particular conditions surrounding black men and women who are held as slaves. Her only friend is Belle the local milliner. Honor makes beautiful quilts and her stitches are the finest around. She sometimes sews for Belle helping her with hat orders for non- Quaker women. While at Belle’s, Honor sees her first black person. Pretty quickly she comes to understand that Belle is involved in hiding runaway slaves.
Honor must find a husband or move on. Staying in Faithwell in Adam’s home without being married is not an option. Honor makes a decision to marry Jack Haymaker a dairy farmer. She lives with him on the farm with his mother and unmarried sister. They too are Quakers and believe in human equality but are unwilling to get involved in helping fleeing slaves. Honor cannot stop herself from becoming involved; her efforts make life with her new family extremely difficult.
Chevalier has penned another well-written story, which wasn’t difficult to read. Other than being set in the North and with Quaker families, the story is pretty much the usual tale written about slaves and the Underground Railroad. If you have never read about the Underground Railroad then this isn’t a bad place to start. Otherwise there isn’t anything new here.
Since I quilt, there was an added bonus for me. I enjoyed reading of quilting frolics and learning some history about certain quilt patterns. Actually, it was what drew me to the novel!!!!