Tracy Chevalier’s latest novel, ‘The Last Runaway’, details the journey of Honor Bright who leaves her close-knit Quaker roots, in Bridport, for the vast open plains of Ohio, in the United States
Set in the 1850s Honor is shunned by her betrothed for another and, makes the decision to travel with her sister, Grace, who has accepted a proposal of marriage and the promise of a new life.
By the time her tortuous sea voyage is over she realises there is no going back and, following a succession of tragedies, finds herself trapped within the unfamiliar territories of the New World; a world of extremes where everything seems bigger and more violent than her Dorset home.
Struggling to become accustomed to a completely new way of life and without any real friends, she has to rely on the generosity of others to get by. Her only comfort is her passion for sewing, in particular patchwork quilting, which help evoke memories of the family and friends she will doubtless never see again.
Running parallel to her plight is the issue of slavery and the fight for emancipation. Honor has to wrestle with her conscience: does she assist the black slaves to escape or choose to honour her religious convictions and newfound family by obeying their wishes?
‘The Last Runaway’ gives a riveting account of the traumatising effects of finding oneself jettisoned into a completely foreign landscape without any means of escape, echoing the slaves’ desperate bid to escape their captors and find freedom.
If you’re a fan of Tracy Chevalier you’ll love it; if not, then you need to be and discover a truly captivating and informative read.