Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: The Last Runaway

The Last Runaway
by Tracy Chevalier

Why did you choose this book? It came highly recommended by more than one friend
When did you read this book? March 2014
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy historical fiction; particularly pre-Civil War US
Source: library audiobook
Here is a synopsis of The Last Runaway from Goodreads
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.
Set in the tangled forests and sunlit cornfields of Ohio, Tracy Chevalier’s vivid novel is the story of bad men and spirited women, surprising marriages and unlikely friendships, and the remarkable power of defiance.
My Review

I listened to this as an audiobook. In general, I do not like audiobooks as they do not hold my attention, and I seem to constantly rewind. However this one was different. Once it caught me, I could hardly put it down! Kudos to the narrator. She did a wonderful job giving life to the characters and giving them each distinctive vocal patterns.

This is the story of Honor Bright, an English Quaker who accompanies her sister, Grace,  to the US for her impending marriage. But before they reach their destination in Faithful, Ohio, Grace succumbs to yellow fever. Unfortunately, Honor is unable to return to England as she was seasick the entire trip across and most likely would not survive a second crossing. Instead, she moves in with her ‘almost’ brother-in-law, Adam, and his sister-in-law, Abigail, who had also recently lost her husband.

I really, really liked the characters in the story; even the ‘bad guy’ slave hunter, Donovan! In fact, even though his occupation really was despicable, and he was unrelenting in his administration of the Fugitive Slave Law, he was one of my favorite characters. I liked the chemistry between Donovan and Honor. Between Honor and Jack, not so much. I also grew fond of the milliner, Belle. She was very down-to-earth, and not afraid to speak her mind.

The author did an excellent job describing Ohio life in the mid-1800s. Her detailed descriptions of quilt patterns and the Belle’s hats, as well as the food prepared and eaten really added to the story. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the differences that Honor encountered in America from what she was used to in England.

The one thing I wasn’t so crazy about was the end. I wish things could have worked out differently, but then, I’d probably be complaining if the end had been different. Honor was in a difficult situation and there was no ‘easy’ answer. I guess I’d have liked to have seen different decisions by Honor earlier in the book. I also would have liked to have seen more interaction between Abigail and Honor later in the book. Abigail was kind of dropped about halfway through the book and Adam was not seen much more.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. I will definitely look for other books by this author, and would probably even be willing to listen to them in audiobook form!  This book would be a good selection for book clubs as the discuss Honor’s ethical dilemmas and pre-Civil War events.

My Rating:  ★★★★   4 Stars
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1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this book too when I read it earlier this year. I know what you mean about the ending, but I think all in all it was realistic and actually very positive.

    Good review of a good book!