An Ohio teenager abandons family and home to bring an escaped slave's baby to freedom in this handwringer--told in letters and diary entries--from Ayres (Family Tree, 1997, etc.). Lucinda and her parents have run a stop on the Underground Railroad for years. When a large group of escapees in the care of solitary neighbor Aurelia Mercer moves on, they leave behind Cass, an ill, pregnant teenager. Isolated with the two women both by weather and fear of slave-catchers, Lucinda fills uneventful weeks penning notes to family and friends, and fretting tediously over two suitors--one solid and stuffy, the other a dashing Quaker. In the meantime, she teaches Cass to read and write, and absorbs ideas about female independence from Aurelia. Cass dies shortly after giving birth; Lucinda's attempt to carry the baby to Canada goes awry when she's recognized. She passes herself off as the mother, buying herself time to slip away, but making it impossible for her to return. After her spun-out romantic quandary and superficial musings on various topics, this is a bombshell. Her previously expressed inclination toward leaving home and her firm belief that her Quaker swain will follow make weak justification for the ease with which she accepts the prospects of this life-altering decision. With such shaky internal logic, the story collapses under its own weight.