In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.
Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.
However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.
When I initially began this book, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it at all. In fact, I had a sneaking suspicion that it was going to make it onto my dreaded DNF list. However, once I got a true grasp of the setting of the book (it really wasn’t that clear initially), I was hooked. I’m a sucker for a story that is about the Underground Railroad.
I appreciated the fact the author expressed some of the other factors at play during this time that skewed people’s perception on if they should or shouldn’t take a stand against slavery. The main one I’m talking about, is the instilled fear that was present during this era, that if slavery were to end, the entire economic structure would collapse. Another one is the fact they truly believed slaves would want to be returned to Africa. I really appreciated how the author dispelled this particular rumor, by having a free woman explain that she’s an American and her family had been in America for generations… which compared to Honor, who just immigrated to the U.S., makes the stronger case of exactly how oppressed they are and how they are being denied the basic freedoms, she gets to enjoy. In fact, these brief moments in the book where they actually explore the thoughts and views of Americans are the ones that kept me intrigued. I suppose it’s the history buff in me.
As for Honor… meh. I didn’t hate her or even despise her. I did find her life in America to be interesting and though she wasn’t an exciting character to read about, at least she proved to be a free thinker and in her own way, an inspiring one. Though she didn’t always stand up for herself and her beliefs in a way that may seem familiar with us, I did like the fact she continued to offer support and help even while trying to lie to herself and everyone else about it.
Is this book completely historically accurate? Probably not. But it’s fiction and it brings to light an important time in history. It highlights both the internal and external struggles of the people who helped along the Underground Railroad. So while I enjoyed the book, I can understand why others did not. It’s not the strongest story, but it’s a good story in my opinion. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll just like it or maybe you’ll hate it. Either way, I think it’s worth your time to try it out.