The Last Runaway: A Novel –by Tracy Chevalier
Fiction / History c.1850 Ohio
Honor Bright comes to America with her sister, who is to be wed to Adam Cox in the small Quaker town of Faithwell, in Ohio (3 miles from Oberlin). She is, from the get-go set into a new life nothing like she has ever known. From the start, she is sick all the way across the Atlantic. She gets better, and her sister dies just short of reaching Faithwell.
The Quakers of the New World are different from the ones she is used to. The homes and buildings are different. The speech is different. Life, she is discovering, is different. She is used to the permanency of stone, not the temporary and flammable wood so common on these shores.
In a word, Honor is frightened, lonely, in mourning, and most importantly, she is homesick. If you've never been there consider yourself fortunate!
Honor is met with suspicion and jealousy. She is young, pretty, and competition to the single girls in the town. Her quilting is different, her stitches are even and tiny—one more thing to set her apart and add to her homesickness.
When she marries, she is not welcome by any in her new family but her husband. She is told not to help escaping slaves, but no one tells her why they refuse to get involved. She must discover that on her own as she follows the dictates of her conscious.
Had I started this book in the morning, it would have been a "one-sit" read; alas, I started it at night, intending to read a couple chapters a night before turning out my light. I read until my eyes burned and the words swam off the page and I couldn't seem to get them back where they belonged. I finished it the next day. (The dusting could wait!)
The fact Ms. Chevalier attended Oberlin College added to the realism of the area and era of The Last Runaway. I found the characters believable, especially considering the times. And having been as homesick as Honor at one time in my life, thrust into a totally different environment, where the language was the same—but not, etc., I found her quite believable. I could even understand the draw to the bad boy, Donovan.
When I closed the book, I immediately began to re-write the ending to suit me (a game in which I often indulge). And, you know what? Ms. Chevalier nailed it! She wrote the perfect ending for this story. Of course, I want to know what comes next in Honor's life, but I don't think this is the first of a series. I have not read Ms. Chevalier's other books, but they are most assuredly on my list.
Would I recommend this book? Oh, most definitely! Anyone who is interested in the Underground Railroad, without all the drama and hype of Hollywood would like it. Anyone who likes history should enjoy it. But beware. It may turn into a one-sit read.