The Last Runaway: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s vivid exploration of an iconic chapter in American history.



Ohio 1850. For a modest English Quaker stranded far from home, life is a trial. Untethered from the moment she leaves England, fleeing personal disappointment, Honor Bright is forced by family...
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The Last Runaway: A Novel

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Overview

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s vivid exploration of an iconic chapter in American history.



Ohio 1850. For a modest English Quaker stranded far from home, life is a trial. Untethered from the moment she leaves England, fleeing personal disappointment, Honor Bright is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in an alien, untamed landscape. Drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two exceptional people who embody the startling power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal cost.



Like Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings, Chevalier's novel is a sweeping and important novel about the power of bravery, friendship, and perseverance.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Chevalier’s (Girl with a Pearl Earring) haunting seventh novel delves into the difference between a theory of belief and its practice. When young Quaker Honor Bright’s fiancé breaks off the relationship to marry outside the faith, Honor goes to America in 1850 with her sister, Grace. Grace is engaged to marry Adam Cox, a young man from their hometown who followed his brother to Faithwell, Ohio. Unfortunately, Grace dies en route, and Honor arrives in Ohio to find Adam sharing a house with Abigail, his sister-in-law, made a widow by the death of Adam’s brother. Honor moves into the house, but feels tense and unwelcome. In Belle Mills, a milliner who appreciates Honor’s sewing skills, Honor finds a friend and ally. Honor also draws the attention of Belle’s brother, Donovan, a slave hunter, and Jack Haymaker, a local farmer, a man “like a pulled muscle that Honor sensed every time she moved.” They marry and Honor, drawn by her sympathies into helping the Underground Railroad, is forced to choose between living her beliefs and merely speaking them. The birth of her own child raises the stakes, and she takes a unique stand in her untenable situation. Honor’s aching loneliness, overwhelming kindness, and stubborn convictions are beautifully rendered, as are the complexities of all the supporting characters and the vastness of the harsh landscape. Honor’s quiet determination provides a stark contrast to the roiling emotions of the slave issue, the abolitionist fight, and the often personal consequences. Chevalier’s thought-provoking, lyrical novel doesn’t allow any of her characters an easy way out. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider. (Jan.)
Library Journal
For the first time ever, the American-born, London-based Chevalier is using America as a backdrop. Leaving home after suffering a disappointment, English Quaker Honor Bright ends up in 1850 Ohio, where she finds folks—even Quakers—pragmatically unprincipled and becomes involved in the Underground Railroad.
Library Journal
English Quaker Honor Bright wants nothing more than to lead a simple and righteous life, but when her engagement to her childhood sweetheart is broken, Honor sails for America and the great unknown of the Ohio frontier. Though she begins her journey with optimism, it quickly fades when tragedy strikes, and Honor finds herself alone and afraid in her new home, depending, for the first time, on the kindness of strangers. Swept up in America's antislavery movement, forced to choose between loyalties to those she loves and the greater good, Honor discovers that the world is not as simple as she once believed. VERDICT Chevalier's (The Girl with the Pearl Earring; Remarkable Creatures) writing continues to have that can't-put-it-down quality, and her change in settings from Europe to 19th-century frontier America is a welcome one. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 7/9/12.]—Leigh Wright, Bridgewater, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101606643
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 9,715
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She lives in London with her husband and son.

Biography

Tracy Chevalier first gained attention by imagining the answer to one of art history's small but intriguing questions: Who is the subject of Johannes Vermeer's painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring"?

It was a bold move on Chevalier's part to build a story around the somewhat mysterious 17th-century Dutch painter and his unassuming but luminous subject; but the author's purist approach helped set the tone. "I decided early on that I wanted [Girl] to be a simple story, simply told, and to imitate with words what Vermeer was doing with paint," Chevalier told her college's alumni magazine. "That may sound unbelievably pretentious, but I didn't mean it as 'I can do Vermeer in words.' I wanted to write it in a way that Vermeer would have painted: very simple lines, simple compositions, not a lot of clutter, and not a lot of superfluous characters."

Chevalier achieved her objective expertly, helped by the fact that she employed the famous Girl as narrator of the story. Sixteen-year-old Griet becomes a maid in Vermeer's tumultuous household, developing an apprentice relationship with the painter while drawing attention from other men and jealousy from women. Praise for the novel poured in: "Chevalier's exploration into the soul of this complex but naïve young woman is moving, and her depiction of 17th-century Delft is marvelously evocative," wrote the New York Times Book Review. The Wall Street Journal called it "vibrant and sumptuous."

Girl with a Pearl Earring was not Chevalier's first exploration of the past. In The Virgin Blue, her U.K.-published first novel (due for a U.S. edition in 2003), her modern-day character Ella Turner goes back to 16th-century France in order to revisit her family history. As a result, she finds parallels between herself and a troubled ancestor -- a woman whose fate had been unknown until Ella discovers it.

With 2001's Falling Angels, Chevalier -- a former reference book editor who began her fiction career by enrolling in the graduate writing program at University of East Anglia -- continued to tell stories of women in the past. But she has been open about the fact that compared to writing Girl with a Pearl Earring, the "nightmare" creating of her third novel was difficult and fraught with complications, even tears. The pressure of her previous success, coupled with a first draft that wasn't working out, made Chevalier want to abandon the effort altogether. Then, reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible led Chevalier to change her approach. "[Kingsolver] did such a fantastic job using different voices and I thought, with Falling Angels, I've told it in the wrong way," Chevalier told Bookpage magazine. "I wanted it to have lots of perspective."

With that, Chevalier began a rewrite of her tale about two families in the first decade of 20th-century London. With more than ten narrators (some more prominent than others), Falling Angels has perspective in spades and lots to maintain interest over its relatively brief span: a marriage in trouble, a girlhood friendship born at Highgate Cemetery, a woman's introduction to the suffragette movement. A spirited, fast-paced story, Falling Angels again earned critical praise. "This moving, bittersweet book flaunts Chevalier's gift for creating complex characters and an engaging plot," Book magazine concluded.

Chevalier continues to pursue her fascination with art and history in her fourth novel, on which she is currently at work. According to Oberlin Alumni Magazine, she is basing the book on the Lady and the Unicorn medieval tapestries that hang in Paris's Cluny Museum.

Good To Know

Chevalier's interest in Vermeer extends beyond a fascination with one painting. "I have always loved Vermeer's paintings," Chevalier writes on her Web site. "One of my life goals is to view all thirty-five of them in the flesh. I've seen all but one -- ‘Young Girl Reading a Letter' -- which hangs in Dresden. There is so much mystery in each painting, in the women he depicts, so many stories suggested but not told. I wanted to tell one of them."

Chevalier moved from the States to London in 1984. "I intended to stay six months," she writes. "I'm still here." She lives near Highgate Cemetery with her husband and son.

The film version of Girl with a Pearl Earring is on the 2003 slate from Lions Gate Films, with Scarlett Johansson in the role of Griet and Colin Firth playing Vermeer.

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    1. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 19, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 73 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(42)

4 Star

(19)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 73 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A fascinating novel about Quakers and America's Underground Railroad

    Honor Bright is a young Quaker woman who reluctantly leaves England to accompany her betrothed sister to American for the wedding. The crossing is far from easy and Honor suffers seasickness the entire month. When the sisters arrive in America, matters take a shocking turn when Honor’s sister falls ill with yellow fever and dies. As scheduled, Honor arrives in Ohio at her sister’s betrothed’s home and finds herself alone with no choice but to live with the family until she can resolve her future.

    Before long, Honor meets and marries a farmer named Jack Haymaker. Unaccustomed to the harsh duties of farming life and her role in milking the family’s dairy cows under the disapproving eye of her mother-in-law, Honor is far from happy. But her Quaker background gives her the strength to carry on dutifully and with little complaint. Her life becomes even more filled with adversity when she discovers they live in the active path of the Underground Railroad, and she begins to aid those who have escaped slavery for the freedom of Canada.

    As the story unfolds, readers feast on detailed descriptions about landscapes, materials, tools, transportation, and clothing. Honor faces personal dilemma’s of faith and morality, of doing what is right vs what is expected, of love and duty. The Last Runaway delves deeply with intense detail into the Underground Railroad and the dangers faced by not only the slaves, but those who aided the slaves to freedom. Believable characters like slave hunting Donovan and his sister Belle who secretly works against her brother and helps slaves, made for a fascinating story.

    The book starts slowly because of quilting details and many descriptions, but it is necessary and engaging as it is of historical importance and adds to the story when it begins to really take root. The novel focuses on the role and risks Quakers took to help slaves during this tumultuous period in history. Tracy Chevalier writes with great depth and insight, creating compelling, three dimensional characters that remain in your thoughts long after the book is finished. Definitely most highly recommended as a novel of historical depth and importance.

    32 out of 38 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Honor Bright is an English Quaker who has emigrated from England

    Honor Bright is an English Quaker who has emigrated from England with her sister, Grace, who hopes to marry a former resident of her hometown. Grace, however, dies on the voyage to America and Honor arrives full of grief and confusion. Honor also had a boyfriend in England who dropped her for another young woman, a fact that devastated Honor so much she felt she had to leave the place where she would always be labeled as the gal who was “jilted” by her one and only great love. So the goal is for Honor to live with Grace’s fiancé and his recently widowed sister-in-law, all of whom Honor doesn’t know and whose reception she wonders about frequently.
    Honor is so physically spent from sea-sickness on the horrific trip (in her mind anyway) that she stays for a few days in the town with a milliner, Belle Mills before continuing a few more hours to her destination, Faithwell. Belle is a gritty, no-nonsense kind of gal who insists Honor do some sewing of pieces for hats as she is a very talented sewer and quilter. Belle, however, is sensitive enough to perceive Honor’s fragile status in a land that brooks no weakness because it is so fragile itself in its pre-Civil War confused state in 1850. Slaves are running north and it is irony of irony that Bell is helping to shelter the runaway slaves traveling the famous or infamous, depending on one’s point of view, Underground Railroad. Honor finally realizes it as well which poses another problem since Quakers never, ever lie! What to do when Belle’s brother, Donovan, a slave catcher and abrasively teasing young man, questions her about what she’s recently seen?
    And how is she to respond to the attention of Jack Haymaker, who volunteers to marry her after her brief respite in the Quaker town of Faithwell fails miserably? The conflict which is quite ever-present intensifies when Honor bucks the Quaker mentality of disapproving slavery but refusing to take any part in the runaway slaves’ precarious position on every step of their formidable journey. Realistic decisions and a true examination of the faith where she has always found comfort leads to some surprising, very satisfying results!
    This is quite a different topic from Tracy Chevalier’s normal forays into European history in her fiction, but it is finely written and in many ways surpasses her previous historical novels. She “gets it right” for every point of view on the issue of slavery that was gradually tearing apart a nation, as well as her portrayal of a single Quaker woman who evolves from a tragic, weak woman to a principled protagonist unafraid to act out her beliefs and more the admirable because of that growth.
    The Last Runaway is superb, poignant historical fiction. Tracy Chevalier has again shown her mastery of character development and a plot that grows intriguing with every turned page, a future best-seller for sure!

    18 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2013

    I had never read any books by Tracy Chevalier, but after reading

    I had never read any books by Tracy Chevalier, but after reading The Last Runaway (in a one-day marathon session!) I'm sure I will look into her previous novels.  I enjoyed just about everything in this book--the quilting parts, the historical details about the underground slavery network, and the well-delineated characters.  From the first page I was interested, and obviously didn't want to stop reading.  The ending was a bit of surprise to me but was still satisfying.  When I finished the last page, I was a bit sad that the story had ended.  This book is well worth a read!t



      

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2013

    Tracy Chevalier is my favorite author and she delivered yet agai

    Tracy Chevalier is my favorite author and she delivered yet again. The subject of this book is not something I normally enjoy however when Tracy tells a story, she delivers. I adore everything about this book and wish there was more. I think of my great grandmother and cross reference her stories with this one. Truly wonderful! Thank you Tracy, where's the next book!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2013

    Loved it!

    This is by far the best book by this author in my opinion. I loved every bit of it.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    Definitely recommend this book

    This was one of those rare occasions when an author takes you on a wonderful journey. I could not wait to turn the page, the characters were so real and convincing. When an author takes a reader to a time and place where one can actually be in the moment and feel what the characters are feeling, smell the flowers and what is cooking in the pots ... this is what a reader wants; to be swept away within the confines of the pages and let your imagination take a trip.

    I would highly recommend this book and will be reading other books by this author.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    An Ohio story

    The underground railway is part of the history of my hometown. So I read this book with great interest and was not disappointed. It was easy to picture the farmland, the weather, the animals, and to appreciate how Honor, the main character, struggled to adapt to her new life. Helping escaped slaves was dangerous especially after the FUgitive Slave Act was passed. But her religious beliefs demanded that Honor do what she could for the desperate fugutives. People like Honor were the heroes of their time.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    New Chevalier Worth the Wait

    In "The Last Runaway," Tracy Chevalier covers new ground and introduces her readers to Quakers in pre Civil War Ohio. Seen through the eyes of a young Englishwoman, Ohio is a wild frontier very different from her comfortable life and home in England, and she does not fully understand the subterfuges and compromises that people must make -- both to stay true to their faith and to survive the complexity of the myriad laws regarding runaway slaves. Chevalier shows the discomfort and compromises that people felt they had to make with regards to slavery, abolition and the myriad laws regarding runaway slaves in order to preserve their homes and lives, and helps the reader understand that the choices people were forced to make weren't black and white.

    Chevalier also shows the difficulty that recent immigrants had in adjusting to their new lives, and the significant cultural changes that occurred between England and America in just a few short decades.

    I highly recommend "The Last Runaway," and am disappointed in only the new wait I now face until her next book comes out.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2013



    5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    A gem

    It was good to read someone telling a story about that time in history. A very thought-provoking book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    An entertaining and beautiful read.

    A wonderful story with some historical background. A book that was hard to lay down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Highly recommended - great historical fiction about the underground railroad and Quakers.

    Living in Ohio very near where the Underground Railroad was very active, and also near where the Quakers lived has added to my interest in this book. The history part is accurate and the story, a good read.
    I've read other Historical Fiction by the same author and really enjoyed them as well.
    Anyone enjoying Historical Fiction would enjoy this book!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2013

    I loved this story.

    I loved this story. Interesting characters well written. I couldn't put it down. Brings a piece of history alive while keeping the story on a personal level.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Outstanding! This story is so flawlessly executed, the pages jus

    Outstanding! This story is so flawlessly executed, the pages just flew by, and I felt I was just floating on Chevalier's words. The story hits several of my favorite themes: authentic relationships, religion, history, personal integrity, quilts. Indeed, the quilt metaphor employed in the book for an individual's place in society could also be extended to the book itself, in the many themes combining to make a beautiful whole story.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    recommend

    A good, fast read. Entertaining.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Highly recommend

    I really enjoyed this read. I have always enjoyed reading about the American slaves quest to be free and enjoyed seeing it through a Quaker's perspective.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    5 Star.  Wonderful, compelling!  A little confusing though becau

    5 Star.  Wonderful, compelling!  A little confusing though because Honor's lack of exposure to slavery in England can't be accurate.  British society was mired in a  political debate for decades by abolitionism that finally won out in 1807 when Great Britain passed laws to ban the import/export of slaves(Abolition of the Slave Trade Act). IN 1811 slave trading was made a felony, but ownership of slaves already owned or indentured was legal.  Abolitionism finally prevailed in 1834 when The British Slavery Abolition Act was passed, abolishing slavery throughout most of the British Empire, including West Indies, South Africa.  Honor's family seems to well educated to not have know about this struggle in Britain, or not to have ever been exposed to a British slave. Other than that, a rich and exciting book!
    .

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2013

    Awesome

    Chevalier doesn't disappoint, as usual. Beautifully crafted characrers to care about in a stunning portrayal of a conflicted and facinating historical period. Press BUY and enjoy!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    Worth Reading

    I felt that this book was worth reading. For some reason when I finished I felt just a tiny bit disappointed because I wanted to like Honor more than I really did. Don't get me wrong I admired her spirit and how she stuck to her beliefs but there just wasn't enough character development to make me really feel attached to her. It was a great story and I would recommend it to anyone. I would really like to know "what happens next" especially if Tracy could give Honor a little more depth.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2013

    This is the kind of book you sort of live in while you are reading it.

    This is a story about a girl and her sister who left England because the sister was going to marry here. Her sister died during the trip across and the young girl (Honor) was left alone to more or less fend for herself. Her moral Quaker beliefs, her beautiful quilt-making, her gradual realization she had to help even in a small way the slaves who were running away from their hard lives is the basis of the story. Tracy Chevalier does not seem able to write anything but good books in my opinion. I enjoyed the book a lot. A quick read - good story - well-written. What else could one want?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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