Today, I’d like to introduce you to Tracy Chevalier‘s novel The Last Runaway. It took me quite some time to pick it up and finally read it, but when I did, I was thoroughly entertained.
Synopsis quoted from HarperFiction¹:
When modest Quaker Honor Bright sails from Bristol with her sister, she is fleeing heartache for a new life in America, far from home. But tragedy leaves her alone and vulnerable, torn between two worlds and dependent on the kindness of strangers.
Life in 1850s Ohio is precarious and unsentimental. The sun is too hot, the thunderstorms too violent, the snow too deep. The roads are spattered with mud and spit. The woods are home to skunks and porcupines and raccoons. They also shelter slaves escaping north to freedom.
Should Honor hide runaways from the ruthless men who hunt them down? The Quaker community she has joined may oppose slavery in principle, but does it have the courage to help her defy the law? As she struggles to find her place and her voice, Honor must decide what she is willing to risk for her beliefs.
Tracy Chevalier’s historical novel The Last Runaway is mainly set in 19th century Ohio. The author paints very vivid pictures of North America’s rural landscape. We ride carriages through high corn fields and feel the summer heat before the storm. I particularly enjoyed the impressive descriptions of the sky prior to thunderstorms.
Honor Bright, the main character, is a shy and quiet young Quaker woman with a mind of her own. She develops into an unconventional Quaker and manages to surprise us. Other great characters are Belle and Donovan. Belle is a safe haven for Honor, a home away from home and in her own way a very charming character. Donovan, on the other side, is mysterious and scary but he does provide some attraction and without him the book would be a bore. The remaining characters, however, are a bit flat.
The Last Runaway is told in third person narration interspersed by various letters. This set-up makes the novel lively, even though it is a quick read anyways. The Last Runaway is gripping until the very end. You really want to know how Honor will find a way to be happy. The ending however feels a little forced. The Last Runaway is a novel for those who are passionate about the American Frontier, stories on the Underground Railroad, or just good, old historical fiction.