Tracy Chevalier is known for her historical dramas that weave the creative undertakings of the characters into the fabric of the novel. Her latest novel, The Last Runaway, takes on quilt-making and the Underground Railroad in mid-1800s Ohio.
Honor Bright accompanies her sister, Grace, across the Atlantic from their home in England to the United States, where Grace is to be married. Upon leaving their home Honor believes she can always return, but after spending the journey suffering from terrible seasickness she realizes this is no longer the case. When Grace dies suddenly of yellow fever Honor must continue on to the town of Faithwell, Ohio, where she is to be taken in by her sister’s fiance, Adam, and Adam’s recently deceased brother’s wife. Honor first spends a few days in the millinery owned by Belle Mills, where she spies a runaway slave hidden behind the woodpile and forms an unhealthy attachment to Donovan, Belle’s brother who is a ruthless slave hunter.
When Adam marries his sister-in-law Honor must find other arrangements and soon weds Jack Haymaker, son of a local dairy farmer, and moves in with her new husband’s family. The farm is outside of town and borders a large expanse of woods and Honor soon finds herself aiding runaway slaves, much to her new family’s chagrin. As Quakers, the Haymakers are against slavery, but have personal reasons why they will not help those who seek their aide, other than providing a bit of water.
Of all of the differences between England and America, including the terminology, wildlife and food, it is slavery that most has an effect on Honor. As a free state, the residents of Ohio, especially the Quakers, were highly involved in the aide of slaves who were heading to freedom in Canada. Honor is torn between standing by her beliefs and obeying her new family’s wishes.
The first half of The Last Runaway details Honor’s move to America and her acclimation to her new home. Honor is a gifted quilter and finds it difficult to adapt to the American style of making quilts, or comforts as they are called by her new family, but as she adapts to their ways, comes to learn that the quilts, as well as Ohio and its people, have their own qualities to be admired.
Nancy has a gorgeous quilt made by the Amish, given to her and her husband as a wedding gift, and wishes she were able to craft such beautiful items. She writes about her 2 boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.