The Last Runaway

The Last Runaway is written by Tracy Chevalier. She wrote the hugely successful The Girl with the Pearl Earring  a few years ago. This novel starts off with Honor Bright accompanying her sister Grace to America, leaving behing their entire family and Quaker community in Bridport, England. Tragically, Grace dies of yellow fever while en route to Ohio where she is to marry a former member of their Quaker community, and Honor is left to her own devices, relying on people she doesn’t know to shelter, feed and take care of her in a strange land with strange customs – slavery being a major one. Honor soon learns that being a Quaker in England isn’t the same as being a Quaker in America. Even their timely passion of quilting is different. There’s a fair amount of info in the book relating to quilting (I paid attention… British quilters do patchwork quilts and Americans do applique quilts) and as research for her book Chevalier even learned to quilt. But the book centres on how the community of Quakers in Ohio deals with the whole issue of runaway slaves trying to make their way to Canada on the Underground Railroad. Honor soon realizes that her principles don’t mesh with some of those in her new homeland. And she is forced eventually to decide where her loyalties lie. It’s a great read. Chevalier is a wonderful writer. I do have a bone to pick with her though, and I know it’s silly but… Honor is British, so why wasn’t her name spelt with a “u”… “Honour”. It would have been more authentic. Chevalier was born in Washington D.C. but now lives in London, and I guess bowing to an American editor and with the book being geared to American readers… but I still think her name should have been spelt the British way.  Anyway, that’s my 2 cents worth. Just a comment from an observant Canadian reader. But it’s a great book nonetheless.

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