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A Story Of Slavery, Loss And Hope In 1850s Ohio

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A Story Of Slavery, Loss And Hope In 1850s Ohio

Book Reviews

A Story Of Slavery, Loss And Hope In 1850s Ohio

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Tracy Chevalier, best known for writing "Girl with a Pearl Earring," has a new book out set in Ohio. It takes place as the Compromise of 1850 is about to pass. That, among other things, included crushing new controls on runaway slaves caught even in non-slave states.

Here's Dolen Perkins-Valdez with our review of the "The Last Runaway."

DOLEN PERKINS-VALDEZ, BYLINE: It's the story of the Underground Railroad experienced by a white Quaker woman whose name is Honor. Honor Bright grows up in England, but her fiance abandons her, and she decides to make the trip to the U.S. Everything is different here. The robins are bigger, roads and cities are spaced out. She tries corn on the cob and sees her first firefly. It's just as delightful for the reader as it is for her. But the story turns out to be much darker.

In America, Quakers face a tough choice. They're against slavery. But after the compromise, helping runaways could mean fines and jail time. For our heroine, it doesn't take much time before she's faced with the same dilemma. Should she protect the escapees running through the Ohio woods? You've heard this story before: the Underground Railroad, some people escaping slavery, some good people helping them. But what makes this story interesting is Honor's perspective. She's English. And in some ways, coming from far away helps her see American slavery in simpler terms.

"The Last Runaway" is a rich, well-researched novel. It's the story of one young woman becoming an American.

CORNISH: That was Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Her latest book "Wench" also deals with slavery and is set in Ohio. The book she reviewed is "The Last Runaway." You can find more reviews at our website, nprbooks.org. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter, @nprbooks.

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