Reviewed by Deborah Carr
Honor Bright, a Quaker with strict principles, is so devastated when her fiancé leaves her for another woman that she emigrates from Dorset to Ohio with her sister Grace. Grace is on her way to marry a man they both knew vaguely from England and the sisters are looking forward to starting their new life. However, before they manage to reach their destination, Grace succumbs to an illness and dies, leaving Honor bereft and having to continue to her new home alone. As she's being taken by cart to a neighbouring town, the cart is stopped by a notorious slave-catcher, Donovan, who inspects her belongings before letting her continue with her journey. Honor rests for a few days with Belle Mills, a fiercely independent milliner who invites Honor to stay in return for helping her sew hats. They become friends, but Honor has to move on to her new home. However, it isn’t easy to fit in to a new family, especially when another member is determined not to like you and Honor realizes that something has to change.
It takes Honor time to settle and begin to get used to the vast differences not only culturally, but in everything from the construction of the American homes to the design of their quilts and even down to conflicting beliefs in owning slaves. The food is very different and the drastic changes in the weather as well as the expectations of her new relatives and even the other Quakers she mixes with makes it difficult for Honor to keep true to her beliefs and her own moral values. Inadvertently drawn in to the The Underground Railroad – where each helper knows only the previous and following link to themselves – she secretly supports runaway slaves as they pass the farm where she lives on their way North, and if Donovan doesn't catch them first, to Canada and hopefully freedom. Honor is confused by her feelings for the aggressive, slave-catcher and when her life takes her on a different course to the one she'd envisaged, she battles to cope. Her new life brings cruelty she'd never before encountered with attitudes so different that she questions what is truly right as well as her place in the community.
This was a fairly slow moving book, but that didn't make it any less enjoyable. I was drawn in from the beginning to the challenging world Honor has chosen and this story gives the very essence of what it must have been like to experience the early years of America as a young immigrant.