“The Last Runaway” by Tracy Chevalier

Cover art for "The Last Runaway" (2013) by Tracy Chevalier.

Cover art for “The Last Runaway” (2013) by Tracy Chevalier.

My apologies to regular readers of this blog. After many days of silence, I am now flooding you with posts. This will be the last one today, I promise. I’m tying up loose ends as I prepare to work on a series of longer topics in the days to come.

You may also be wondering why I am featuring a work of fiction in this entry, something I have never done here before. I debated whether to include it, and ultimately decided that anyone reading the blog might be interested in this book, as well. If you are not a fan of historical fiction, please feel free to skip this particular post.

It is not my intention to write any sort of critical review of the work, only to call it to your attention. I happened to pick up a used copy at a library book sale; I knew nothing about it beyond thinking the cover very beautiful and recognizing the author’s name. Tracy Chevalier, who famously wrote Girl with a Pearl Earring (later turned into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson), also happens to be a 1984 graduate of Oberlin College and something of a local celebrity. Imagine my surprise when I learned that much of this story is set in Wellington and Oberlin in the early 1850s.

The book gives a fictional account of English Quaker Honor Bright as she travels with her sister to settle in Ohio in the mid-nineteenth century. She eventually spends time boarding at a millinery shop on Main Street, directly across from the local hotel in Wellington. Chevalier works in references to the construction of the railroad line, Dr. Johns, and the activities of the Underground Railroad in both towns during the period. She also sets a portion of the story in a supposedly adjacent Quaker settlement called Faithwell, but that is a community that existed only in the author’s imagination.

If any of you have already read this book, I would love for you to leave a comment and let others know your thoughts on it. I would just ask that, even if you didn’t personally love it, you be kind and considerate in your remarks.


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