The Last Runaway

The Last Runaway

by Tracy Chevalier


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

Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker, 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, Honor is drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, where she 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142180365
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/29/2013
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 124,427
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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


London, England

Date of Birth:

October 19, 1962

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Chevalier's ringing prose is as radiantly efficient as well-tended silver."
Entertainment Weekly (on Falling Angels)

Customer Reviews

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The Last Runaway 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 reviews.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
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.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
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!
Almost-Tica More than 1 year ago
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   
alaskanvalkyrie More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is by far the best book by this author in my opinion. I loved every bit of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was good to read someone telling a story about that time in history. A very thought-provoking book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read several of this author's books, which persuaded me to purchase this one. It was OK, a bit sappy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful story with some historical background. A book that was hard to lay down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good, fast read. Entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
CMKmom More than 1 year ago
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?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
mah47 More than 1 year ago
I loved the character developments in this story. The attention to detail - quaker communities in America and England, quit designs, etc. - is wonderful and instead of slowing the story down it moves it along with style and grace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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! .
StelaKH More than 1 year ago
This was not my favorite of hers but still a good read. The book moves along and is historically well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a good book. 3 1/2 star maybe 4 star
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating historical read. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Be aware that the Gale Group paperback version of The Last Runaway is LARGE PRINT!  There is nothing on the webpage that I could see to let you know this. Now I have to return it. If you don't like large print books, buy the Penguin edition!