By: Tracy Chevalier

I listened to the unabridged audiobook of “The Last Runaway”.

The year is 1850 and Honor Bright, a Quaker girl from England arrives in America with her sister after a sea crossing spent in misery from sea-sickness.

They have travelled to America where Honor’s sister is to wed a Quaker man in Ohio. However, shortly after arriving in America Honor’s sister contracts yellow fever and dies. Honor is now all alone in a strange land. She is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to help her reach her new home. She is not even sure if she will still be welcome since it was her sister who was to be married, not Honor.

Honor is a talented seamstress and quilt maker and upon arrival in Ohio she meets a woman named Belle who owns a Milliner’s shop. Recognizing Honor’s talent with a sewing needle, Belle immediately puts Honor to work sewing bonnets and hats. Honor stays with Belle for several days while waiting for her sister’s fiancé to arrive to take her to her new home. During that time she meets Belle’s brother, Donovan.

Donovan is a slave-catcher and he is a handsome devil. Honor cannot help but feel attracted to him, even though as a Quaker she opposes slavery and must marry a fellow Quaker.

After moving to Faithwell, Ohio and staying with her sister’s ex-fiance for several weeks, she realizes that she cannot live with him indefinitely. She meets and marries a local farmer named Jack Haymaker.

Somehow along the way she gets involved with the Underground Railroad. She believes it is her duty to help any runaway slave that needs assistance. However, with the “Fugitive Slave Act” becoming law, her family could be fined or even imprisoned for helping runaway slaves. This presents a moral dilemma. Does she follow her conscious and heart or does she give in the wishes of her in-laws.

This book is a fascinating look at the life of a Quaker, newly arrived to America, and how she settles into her new life in a strange land.

Even though this is a fiction novel the author has thoroughly researched the era and the setting. This research is evident in the multitude of small details and make listening to this audiobook more enjoyable and fascinating.

The author has done an admirable job of writing details of the ingrained prejudices of the time period.

The Quakers of the time had a policy of opposing any and all forms of slavery. But, in practice some Quakers would rather turn a blind eye than offer assistance to runaway slaves. It is this dilemma that is central to Honor’s story.

This book is fascinating and complex. It examines many issues that faced the early settlers of America and the difficulties and challenges they faced when trying to carve a life for themselves out of a land that did not always want to cooperate.

I rate this audiobook as 5 out of 5 stars. Anyone who is interested in American history or in historical fiction will enjoy this book.


Tracy Chevalier is the author of “The Girl With The Pearl Earring.”

To learn more about the author visit

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