In 1850, Honor Bright, a young English Quaker woman, accompanies her sister, Grace, to a small community near Oberlin, Ohio, where Grace is to marry the owner of a dry goods store. When Grace dies of a fever while traveling across the United States, Honor must decide to stay in Ohio or return to her family in England. Honor remains, marrying a dairy farmer and joining his family at their remote farm. One day a runaway slave appears in the farmyard, and Honor must decide whether to follow her principles, or adhere to the law of the land and wishes of her husband’s family. Though forbidden to help escaped slaves, Honor becomes increasingly drawn into the activities of the Underground Railroad. She struggles to find her calling in Ohio, even as her involvement with runaways threatens her own safety.
In this novel, Honor relies on her Quaker faith and her love of quilting to guide her through difficult decisions. I found Honor to be an interesting character, if a bit unrealistic in her idealism. Tracy Chevalier’s The Last Runaway is a solid work of historical fiction – very interesting and informative, if not especially inventive. I expect that I enjoyed this book more than most readers, as I also quilt and I grew up in a small town in Ohio very close to Oberlin. Generally, I found The Last Runaway to be one of Chevalier’s better efforts.
Availability: USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby