Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

One Came Home

One Came Home

Amy Timberlake
Historical Fiction
For ages 10 and up
Random House, 2013   ISBN: 978-0375869259

Every year the people in Placid, Wisconsin, wait with eagerness for the wild pigeons to arrive. The pigeons not only give the locals meat and feathers, but they also attract scores of pigeoners, who spend their money in the local businesses. In 1871, Placid is inundated with a record number of pigeons and everyone is delighted when the birds chose to nest in the nearby woods. People will be able to harvest the fat young squabs, which are considered a delicacy by some, and which therefore sell for a great deal of money.

   This year, when the pigeoners move on, Georgie’s big sister Agatha leaves with them. She does not tell anyone that she is leaving and leaves no note, and therefore everyone is profoundly shocked when they realize that she is gone. Agatha is engaged to marry a wealthy local businessman, a man who will give her everything she wants, so her disappearance makes no sense to most people. However  Georgie knows that more than anything Agatha wants to go to college to study animals and plants. The girls’ grandfather refused to help Agatha fulfill this dream and he thought that she had reconciled herself to getting married to Mr. Olmstead. Clearly she did not and thus she ran away.

   As soon as they realized that Agatha has truly gone, Sheriff McCabe sets off to try to find the girl. He goes to the town of Dog Hollow, and a few days later he returns to Placid with the body of a girl with red hair who is wearing Agatha’s splendid ball gown. Everyone accepts that the body is Agatha’s, except for Georgie. Georgie is convinced that her sister is still out there somewhere and she decides to go to Dog Hollow to see what she can find out.

   Though Dog Hollow is not far away, it is still far enough that Georgie needs a horse to get there. Since she does not have a horse of her own, she ends up talking to Billy, Agatha’s former beau. Billy agrees to get Georgie a mount (for a price), and they arrange to meet in the cemetery in a few days. Georgie gathers the provisions she thinks she is going to need, and on a Saturday night she goes to the cemetery to meet Billy.

   Billy is there with a mule and a horse. At first Georgie thinks the mule will be carrying her supplies, but she is soon disabused of this notion. The mule is for her to ride, and Billy is going to ride the horse. Like it or not he is going to go with her, even though he thinks Agatha is dead. He seems to understand that Georgie needs to go to Dog Hollow for herself. She needs to find out what she can about Agatha’s journey and perhaps walk in her footsteps. He never for once expects that he and Georgie are going to find themselves in the middle of a very dangerous adventure.

   Readers who enjoy historical fiction are going to be thrilled by this grand bittersweet mystery-adventure tale. The author beautifully combines sadness with humor and it is hard not to develop a fondness for Georgie, who readily admits to her failures. She also admits that she is afraid of cougars and spiders, and it would appear that she cannot ride a horse. Nevertheless, she sets off into the unknown to find out what happened to her sister and we cannot help admiring her for her courage and her stubbornness.