It is 1850. Honor Bright is an English Quaker, who accompanies her soon-to-be married sister to America.. Tragedy strikes. The sister dies following a short illness, and Honor is stranded in Ohio, with a not very welcoming community of Quakers.
The hardships faced by immigrants and pioneers alike are addressed by Chevalier, in this novel, that pits human compassion against self-preservation. Honor Bright cannot return to England, and as a single woman in a Quaker community she is only left with one choice: to marry. Her prospects are extremely limited.
This area of Ohio is also a major stop on the underground railroad. Many slaves come through on their way to safety in Canada, and even though Ohio is a free state, the Fugitive Slave Act has made many Quakers reluctant to help slaves, for fear of the legal repercussions.
This book does a wonderful job of presenting the Quaker community and the moral dilemmas faced by religious and non-religious persons in a secular world. Honor Bright, in trading the English Quaker community for its American counterpart, must come to terms with the fact that life in America is far different than the life she left behind.
I’ve always enjoyed Tracy Chevalier’s novels, and this is no exception. Her details about Quaker life, the underground railroad and the history of quilting make this a worthy read.
3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2013