The Last Runaway
Author: Tracy Chevalier
The author follows Honor, a young Quaker women living in the early nineteenth century, as she leaves her English home to travel to America with her older sister to start a new life. Honor had decided to travel to America with her sister after the man she had been engaged to married another woman. The sister, Grace, was traveling to Ohio where she would marry a man she knew had who had emigrated to America earlier. After crossing the Atlantic and on the way to Ohio, Grace contacted Yellow Fever and died. As a result Honor found she was alone in a strange country. This set up the story which revolved around the Quaker family Grace intended to join in Ohio, other people she met there, and around the runaway slaves making their way through Ohio on the Underground Railroad.
The story explores human reactions generated by issues regarding runaway slaves and tensions within the Quaker community with regards to helping the runaways. The Quaker’s opposed slavery but there were dangers and consequences and not all Quaker’s were willing to accept the risks involved.
Adding to the stories strength is a accurate depiction of the environment and everyday life of the period. The books acknowledgements attested to the thoroughness of the research done in conjunction with the writing. The book’s account of milking by hand was one item that impressed me. I have some knowledge of the process of hand milking and the author, who had never had a close relation with a cow, provided an excellent description of the method and the satisfaction that can occur from the experience.
This is a story that deals with the nation’s struggle with the concept and practice of slavery, and also with the experience of life in America as it expanded to the western horizon. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction.
Alfred Wellnitz Published Book and Short Story Information at: