one came home

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Georgie knows that she is the reason her sister Agatha left.  When an unidentifiable body is found with her sister’s hair color and the dress her mother sewed, everyone assumes it is Agatha.  But Georgie refuses to accept that.  She sets off to find out what happened to her sister.  In 1871 in rural Placid, Wisconsin, Georgie is forced to ask her sister’s old beau Billy to give her a horse.  She has a gun that she is an expert at using and a destination in mind, where the body was found.  It doesn’t work out the way Georgie expects since Billy insists on joining her for the trip and gives her a mule rather than a horse to ride.  The two set off arguing all the way, traveling through the debris from the largest passenger pigeon nesting in history, finding wild adventures along the way. 

Written in a lyrical voice, the prose in this book is noteworthy and lovely.  Timberlake has radiantly recreated both the society and setting of the late 1800s.  Happily, she spends less time on clothes and societal niceties and much more on spirit and gumption.  Early in the book you can see her words at work, drawing a picture of the two sisters using imagery from nature around them:

Feathers flew up with each breaking bottle. Pigeon feathers that spring were like fallen leaves in the autumn-they were everywhere, in everything. But there’s a difference between feathers and leaves. Feathers claw their way back into the sky, whereas leaves, after flying once, are content to rest on the earth. Agatha? She was a feather. She pushed higher, farther always. I suspected my constitution was more leaf than feather. I hoped I was wrong about that, though, because I wanted to be like Agatha.

Georgie is a tremendous protagonist.  She’s a natural with a rifle, looks forward to taking over the family store in their small town.  She’s not interested in boys and is far more concerned with her own future with her sister than with anything else.  She speaks with confidence and very boldly, never keeping her opinions to herself for long.  At the same time, she is also the voice of the novel, and through that she herself looks at the world in a poetic way.

Beautiful with a strong heroine, this book is a dazzling read for tweens.  Appropriate for ages 9-12. 

Reviewed from copy received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.