Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Published by: Dutton Adult
Published on: January 8, 2013
Page Count: 320
Genre: Historical fiction
My Reading Format: Advanced Reading Copy for Kindle through NetGalley
Available Formats: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio CD, Audible book

My Review:

Sisters Grace and Honor Bright leave their English village and board a ship to the United States in 1850 so Grace can marry a fellow Quaker from their hometown who has moved to Ohio. On the way Grace contracts yellow fever and doesn't survive the journey. Honor continues on since the slow mail service might mean Honor herself will have to give Adam, Grace's betrothed, the news of her death. Honor meets new people along the way as she contemplating the differences between the English life she's used to and her new American one. There's Donovan the sometimes-creepy, rough-around-the-edges slave hunter who takes a liking to Honor. Donovan's sister Belle Mills, a milliner, takes Honor in for a few days and becomes her truest friend even though their spiritual lives are vastly different from one another. Mrs. Reed, though her shell is a hard one to crack, becomes a friend to Honor as later the two work together to assist slaves escaping from the South through Ohio and on to Canada. Adam Cox, Grace's fiance, and his sister-in-law Abigail briefly take Honor in until she makes other arrangements. Finally, those other arrangements present themselves about six weeks after Honor's arrival in Faithwell, Ohio, when she marries Jack Haymaker and joins his family on their farm just outside of town.

I enjoyed reading about Honor and how she navigated a new life that felt very uncertain. She remained true to her Quaker faith even when that meant going against her husband's family's wishes, or against the accepted culture in her town. She spends much of her time during this book feeling unsettled and without purpose until she finds a way to help Mrs. Reed and slaves who are escaping to the north to freedom. When the Haymakers forbid Honor to assist slaves, Honor has a choice to make.

I have always enjoyed Chevalier's stories (particularly The Girl with the Pearl Earring), and her latest didn't disappoint. I think many readers will be able to relate to Honor and her need to help people and do what's right, but all of us don't have Honor's bravery.

Four out of five stars

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