Tuesday 10 October 2023

The Last Runaway

Finished October 2
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

In 1850, Grace Bright was set to travel to the United States to marry a man from her community who had previously emigrated there, her sister Honor decided to go with her. Honor had recently been left by the man she had been supposed to marry and was feeling too many eyes on her in the Quaker community that she lived in. On the voyage, Honor was much more seasick than her sister, but as they traveled to the community in Ohio that they were going to, it was Grace who fell ill and died. 
On the way, the wagon that Honor was getting a ride on was accosted by a rough man, Donovan, looking for escaped slaves. They had an interaction that Honor found disconcerting. Arriving in the town of Wellington, Honor sent word ahead of her sister's death, but took time to recover by staying with a kind woman, Belle Mills, who is a milliner. 
When her sister's fiance, Adam Cox, arrives and takes her back to the village of Oberlin, where he lives, she finds that Adam's brother has recently died as well, leaving her living with Adam, and his brother's widow Abigail. It is an uncomfortable situation as Honor feels resented and when soon the elders determine that it isn't right for an unmarried man to be living with two unmarried women who aren't his blood relations, she realizes that things must change. 
Honor is a skilled quilter and seamstress and did some work for Belle when she stayed with her. She also quilts at home in Oberlin and at a community quilting session, where her skills are noted. Adam asked her to come work at the dry goods store he owned in a larger town nearby and she met another interesting woman there, a black woman who also took note of her. 
As Honor adjusts to life in this new land, she must also find the quiet inside that she always felt at home with her religion, but struggles to here. And she must balance the legal issues with her sense of morality in dealing with escaped slaves. 
This was a very interesting read, that gave a sense of the real struggles that people dealt with during these times. It also gave a sense of the Quaker religion of the time and how communities both set themselves apart and mingled. 

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