The Last Runaway
Reeling from the humiliation of being dumped by her fiancé Samuel for someone outside of their circle, devoted Quaker Honor Bright decides to join her newly betrothed sister Grace on her trip from England to America.
After suffering severe seasickness for the entire month-long voyage, Honor’s happiness of finally reaching the shores of America is short-lived, as Grace succumbs to yellow fever, dying before she can reach her intended, Adam Cox.
Soldiering on, Honor is taken in by hatmaker Belle Mills—sister to the dastardly, slave-hunting Donovan who, despite his crassness, secretly makes Honor’s heart beat a little faster whenever he’s near. After word is sent to Adam Cox of her arrival, Honor will stay on a few days at the store to assist Belle in the daily sewing, giving her time to work through her grief.
During her time with Belle and later with Adam Cox, Honor learns more about the plight of slaves and the secret efforts made by various townsfolk to help them escape—townsfolk including Belle.
Torn between her religious beliefs and the law, Honor searches deep within for the answer; but in order to help her fellow humans she will have to risk it all—even becoming a runaway herself.
Raised as a Quaker within a community holding specific ideations and beliefs, Honor Bright finds herself in a whole new world, not just because she is in America, but also among her own people.
Bound by certain laws and traditions, Honor soon realizes life isn’t always black and white, but includes large gray areas, areas that make one human responsible for another and that are further complicated by the laws of society.
Caught up in the emotional turmoil between her head and her heart, Honor grapples with staying the course and carrying out the edict of her beliefs. Her frustration is exponentially heightened as she witnesses the pain and suffering of those who would benefit from her assistance.
Most of all, she must shoulder the responsibility that freedom brings with it, as well as sort through the feelings of simply being a woman and wanting things that on their surface seem wrong, but feel so right in her heart.
It’s interesting to see the limits that Ms. Chevalier bestows upon Honor. An incredibly skilled quilter, Honor demands nothing but perfection from herself. But given her new environment, she has to deal not only with different patterns and colors, but also with the offensive shortcuts of applique that seem so insignificant, but speak volumes of the lifestyle and attitude of these women.
It’s all Honor can do to dutifully accept the slipshod work of these Ohio women, but even making an exception as inconsequential as how she sews has a profound effect on her psyche and the respect she’s trying to desperately to hold on to.
Tracy Chevalier (Girl with a Pearl Earring) has captured the timeless writing style that defines a classic. Honor Bright’s story is quiet yet utterly captivating.
From the beginning of her journey, Honor Bright is cast as a beacon of hope, sailing into the unknown, her faith and belief system firmly intact. Then on she goes to embrace a dutybound marriage, changing her name to Haymaker and taking on the responsibilities of a dairy farm and a family that has compromised its beliefs. This all finally leaves Honor fighting to hold on to her individualism and above all to preserve her self-respect as well as her love for others—but only as equals.