Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Description (from cover):

New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier makes her first fictional foray into the American post in The Last Runaway, bringing to life the Underground Railroad and illuminating the principles, passions and realities that fueled this extraordinary freedom movement.

In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.

Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.

However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is Tracy Chevalier’s vivid engagement with an iconic part of American history.’

My thoughts:

I am a loyal Tracy Chevalier fan. I have read every single book she has ever written. I was surprised actually to learn that this one was set in American history as so many of her books feature English and European history. It was interesting to see how a famed historical fiction writer would embrace something outside the norm for her and I was wondering if this novel would be as good as her others. I shouldn’t have had much cause for concern as Tracy Chevalier has become pretty known for her historical brilliance. This book was no different and it showcased how flexible of an author she is to try something new.

Honor Bright has left England to travel to America as a companion to her sister who is to be married. She arrives in America wide eyed and intrigued by this new strange land which is so different from the one she just left. She travels to Ohio and is met with a tragic event along the way. She must fend for herself if she is to live in this strange new land. When she reaches her destination she soon settles into the Quaker lifestyle that she is accustomed to and starts her new life. Slavery and the Underground Railroad are all new to her and she must deal with her thoughts on racial equality. The religion that she embraces preaches that all men are created the same and should be treated as such. However, the actions of the people around her strongly suggest that they don’t feel this way. Honor decides to help with the Underground movement against the will of the others because she feels that she must do what is right even at the risk of losing everything she has.

I really enjoyed learning more about the Quaker religion and the way that they felt about slavery throughout this time period in American history. This story takes place a little more than a decade before the Civil War rages across America and it is very interesting to see how things built up to cause such turmoil. The people who worked the Underground Railroad were courageous in the face of danger and death and it touches a place in my heart. Tracy Chevalier has a remarkable way of making characters and their plight relate to the reader in a way that touches them in a way little books can do. I simply could not put this book down and I am anxiously awaiting her next novel. Tracy Chevalier has created another masterpiece in the genre of historical fiction and I highly encourage you to pick this one up!

Overall Rating: 4.5

Title:  The Last Runaway
Author:  Tracy Chevalier
Series:  N/A
Publisher:  Dutton Adult
Publication Date:  January 8, 2013
Pages:  320
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Get It:  Amazon; Barnes & Noble

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for my review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

12 thoughts on “Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

  1. I am curious about this title although the subject matter does seem a little bit of a departure from her usual material. Chevalier's books do seem to get better and better. I must admit I was a little disappointed with The Lady and the Unicorn but then Buring Bright and Remarkable Creatures were both excellent, I especially enjoyed Remarkable Creatures. I will read this one but I will probably wait until I can get in paperback.


  2. Great review — I have this one in my queue. I'm back-and-forth about Chevalier — I've liked some of her books, disliked some others — but the setting of this one really excites me!


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