Author: Amy Timberlake
Release date: January 8, 2013
Published by: Knopf Books for Young Readers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Strangely enough, a story involving a ton of passenger pigeons was fascinating!
In One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, Georgie, our main character, lives in Placid, WI in 1871. Apparently thousands of now-extinct passenger pigeons roosted in Wisconsin that year, and Timberlake uses that historical context to build a beautiful story about sisters and love and guilt.
The story begins with Georgie at her sister’s funeral; she has a flashback to identifying the body of her sister, Agatha, based on a dress her mother had sewn. Georgie insists that the body in that coffin is not her sister’s. Her mom and Grandfather Bolte disagree with her and insist that she recognize the death of her sister.
Georgie decides she has to prove that it isn’t her sister, and the only way she can do that is embark on a journey to Dog Hollow, the town where Agatha’s body was found. Keep in mind that Georgie is a thirteen-year-old-girl in the late 1800s. That’s part of why I really enjoyed this story; I loved Georgie’s personality: her gumption! What a lovely old-fashioned word for being stubborn and sticking to any task.
Part of what drives Georgie is her guilt. She begins the story by remembering how angry she was at her older sibling for wanting to leave her. First Agatha wants to go to university and study science, then Billy McCabe courts her, then Mr. Olmstead. Georgie doesn’t like any scenario where Agatha leaves her behind in Placid, Wisconsin, to tend the store by herself. Thus, she blames herself for her sister deciding to sneak off and leave the family...and maybe dying...or not.
With the help of Billy McCabe, Agatha’s old beau, who was not invited on this journey but who insists on coming anyway, Georgie goes on her quest to discover the truth about what happened to Agatha. She believes she will find the answers she wants in Dog Hollow, which is several days journey from Placid.
Georgie’s relationship with Billy is another part I love about this adventurous tale. They have a contentious relationship at first and the dialogue between these two is funny. Both Billy and Georgie end up needing each other to understand all of the pieces that caused Agatha to leave. And let me tell you, there are some heart-pounding adventures along the way.
This story has beautiful word images of the landscape of Wisconsin; it also has some horrible images of the sights and smells of what is left behind when the pigeoners finish hunting and barreling the pigeon meat. Timberlake’s sensory writing is awesome!
Driven by love and family, Georgie’s story is both beautiful and sad as she discovers the truth behind what happened to her sister and in the end realizes her own worth as well. Enjoy!