The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
Release Date: (paperback) 29 August 2013
Source: Sent over by the lovely folks at HarperCollins
Synopsis: 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.
If I thought I could get away with writing a review that just says “I loved this book,” I totally would. The Last Runaway was simply that good for me, especially as I felt connected to the story.
Being from Kentucky and having studied slavery and abolitionism in school, I was already very familiar with the concept of the Underground Railroad and the movement of slaves to the North for freedom. In fact, the university I went to, Berea College, was founded by an abolitionist (John G Fee) and was one of the first campuses in the USA that was not segregated. I won’t go through the entire history, but if you want to know more, check out this brilliant interactive timeline.
Needless to say, The Last Runaway had me hooked before I even opened it, even without knowing much about the Quaker faith.
This book broke my heart in places, both with the stories of the runaway slaves but also with Honor’s story of leaving behind all she knows to face the unknown and carve a life out for herself.
I was astounded by Honor’s bravery and resolve to do the right thing and The Last Runaway prompted some serious self-reflection. Would I be able to help those in need, all while jeopardizing myself, my family and my way of life and religion? I’m not sure I could actually say yes to that question.
The Last Runaway is an interesting little page-turner with an emotional hook that will have you stuck in until the end.
The Last Runaway is available in paperback, ebook and hardback and can be found at all good bookstores or online.