Title: The Last Runaway
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Published in: 2013
Genre: historical fiction
Source: borrowed from library
Reason for Reading: Loved Girl with the Pearl Earring and Remarkable Creatures by Chevalier, so I’ve been waiting for her next to come out 🙂
Summary (from book jacket):
Ohio 1850. For a modest English Quaker stranded far from home, life is a trial. Untethered from the moment she leaves England, fleeing personal disappointment, Honor Bright is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in an alien, untamed landscape. The men sweat and spit; the women drink whisky and shoot copperheads, even as they stitch bonnets and quilts.
Ninteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her noew home, Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community famed for championing human equality.
Drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two exceptional people who embody the startling power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal cost.
My Thoughts: This book really struck home with me. Having lived my entire life in Ohio, about 1.5 hours drive to the setting of the book, I was totally engrossed in the historical aspect of the book. I could so easily picture Chevalier’s descriptions of the landscape and weather. I’ve never known another landscape or extreme weather shifts (today it is 50 and tomorrow it should be in the 20s!), though it certainly has changed since Honor first came to know Ohio. I often forget just how different England and America are, especially in the 1850s. I’ve been to Scotland for a trip, but did I pay attention to whether or not there were such mundane animals I’m used to seeing like squirrels and raccoons? Of course not! I can only imagine the shock an immigrant would feel upon changing European city-life for backwoods Ohio–even settling in New England would have been better than the polar opposite that was the untamed midwest.
But I digress…I read this book in three sittings. I haven’t read a book so quickly in such a long time. It is a simple story, yet Honor has some very complex feelings about fitting in and belonging. As I’ve never really moved far from my family and friends and all I know, I cannot identify with Honor. But that just made her story all the more interesting to me. I don’t quilt or sew, but Chevalier’s inclusion of that small aspect of daily life made me want to grab my friend who does quilt with her family and see just what it’s like. Oddly enough, I felt that the Quaker ways didn’t seem all that different from the Amish as they are today.
One last thought. This cover is beautiful! I just love it 🙂
A Favorite Quote:
“I think now that the stunning show of leaves in red and yellow and orange in the autumn was one last gift from God to see us through these colourless winter months.” (p185)
What a beautiful way to describe the changing colors of fall in Ohio…