“As she watched, the darkness unfolded itself, stood and took the shape of a young black woman, barefoot, in a yellow dress. Around her hair she wore a strip of cloth torn from the hem of her dress…[S]he held out a hand towards Honor. A small, ambiguous gesture, it still had the power to untwist Honor’s stomach, for it said: Help me.” Tracy Chevalier, THE LAST RUNAWAY
Tracy Chevalier’s THE LAST RUNAWAY was published in January and is 338 pages. I received a copy for review because of my ongoing interest in Chevalier’s work, and this book might now be my favorite of her novels.
THE LAST RUNAWAY begins on a gangplank in Bristol, England as Quaker Honor Bright prepares to leave for America with her sister, Grace. Honor has been jilted in love, and her devotion to Grace and the idea that she “can always go back” inspires her to travel with her sister aboard the Adventurer to Ohio, where Grace’s betrothed waits for her.
It doesn’t take long for tragedy to befall Honor, and she finds herself alone in an undeveloped world, reliant upon her talents and the aid of strangers. From outspoken milliners, to complicated slave hunters, to the Quakers who are supposed to welcome her, and the runaway slaves she’s supposed to leave alone, Honor finds that nothing is as it seems. Surprised by Americans and herself at every turn, Honor is forced to either betray her conscience or those around her.
THE LAST RUNAWAY is the kind of novel that draws the reader in, as if inviting one to hear a story or a bit of gossip, and doesn’t release its grip until the final shocking pages. Historically fascinating and unpredictable, the tension in the novel grows until it becomes nearly unbearable. All the while, the kind and steady voice of Honor Bright is a beacon. Her journey is one that is vast and satisfying, and shows both her self and the reader her incredible strength of character.
If you enjoy original and enlightening historical fiction populated by unforgettable players, I recommend THE LAST RUNAWAY. Long time Chevalier fans will gain a new appreciation for the author they have grown to return to over and over again from this intense and thought-provoking story.
Because I enjoyed THE LAST RUNAWAY so much, I’ll be sponsoring a giveaway that runs through this Friday, 2/15, at midnight, EST. Please comment about this or your favorite Chevalier novel for a chance to win, and please spread the word.