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5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, 12 Mar. 2014
This review is from: The Last Runaway (Paperback)
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier’s novel The Last Runaway gripped me from beginnint to end.

The first paragraph drew me straight into the story. Honor Bright, jilted by her fiance, decides to accompany her sister, Grace, to America. “When she (Honor) sorted through her belongings, keeping only the most necessary when she gave away all of her quilts, when she said goodbye to her uncles and aunts, and kissed her cousins and nieces and necphews, when she got into the coach that would take them from Bridport, when she and Grace linked arms and walked up the gangplank at Bristol – she did all of these things with the unspoken thought – I can always come back.” But there would never be the possibility of return for the young Quaker, who makes exquisite quilts and finds it soothing to set stitch after stitch.

Instead of numbering the chapters Tracy Chevalier gives them titles pertinent to each one such as, Horizon, Quilt, Bonnets, in which Honor stays with a milliner who makes her a grey bonnet lined with yellow – a shocking innovation for a Quaker, and one which the Friends will disapprove of. In the chapter titled Silence Honor explains her faith to the milliner. “When the mind is clear one turns inward and sinks into a deep stillness. There is peace there and a strong sense of what we call the Inner Spirit, or the Inner Light.

Interspersed with prose are Honor’s letters to her parents and her friend, Biddy, to whom she gave the last quilt she finished in England. “… a patchwork of brown, yellow and cream diamonds pieced into an eight-point Star of Bethlehem, then quilted with harps and the running feather border she was known for.”

Honor continues to make quilts and she attends sewing bees, at which she sets the neatest stitches, while she is drawn into the wrongs of slavery. She becomes part of the Underground Railroad which offers temporary, but safe havens to runaway slaves who are heading for Canada.

In the Author’s Notes, Tracy Chevalier explains: - “The Last Runaway may be fiction but I wanted to explore the realities of Quaker Life…” And she does this admirably through Honor Bright part of the Quaker community which opposed slavery in principle but not always in fact.

The novel gave me a window filled with interesting characters into a new world that I appreciated.
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Location: Hertfordshire, England

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