Saturday, February 2, 2013

danyelle recommends One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

I'm not exaggerating when I say that visiting the ALA's exhibit floor last week in Seattle was exhilarating.   There is something about stacks of new books that makes me want to celebrate.  And while my plane ride home from Seattle (picture closed airports, circling in the air, diversion to Boise, a long wait on the runway) was miserable, my flight to Seattle was quite enjoyable because I took along one of those new books, Amy Timberlake's One Came Home, to read on the flight.  (Also, I had excellent company.)

After Georgie's sister, Agatha, goes missing, Sheriff McCabe brings back a body, and the town mourns Agatha's death.  But Georgie isn't so sure that her sister is dead, and she runs away to look for her in the last place anyone saw Agatha alive, Dog Hollow.  When she tries to buy a horse from Billy McCabe, she confides her plans to him, and Billy, much to Georgie's chagrin, decides to join her on the journey.  Billy knows that Agatha, his one-time sweetheart, is dead, and Georgie is just as certain that her sister is alive, and as they travel, the two spar, but they also develop a friendship that is tested as secrets are revealed.  Through flashbacks, the reader glimpses events leading up to Agatha's departure and realizes that there is much that Georgie doesn't understand.  Her search for answers takes her on an adventure that includes confronting a cougar, an encounter with counterfeiters, and a good ole' western shoot-out.

The story is set in 1871 Placid, Wisconsin, and as you might expect, Timberlake composes her setting with scenes of the Wisconsin River, hills that "push out of the ground for no discernible reason," and small frontier towns (143).  But more intriguing is the wild (passenger) pigeon nesting of 1871-- the largest recorded nesting -- that is the backdrop for the story.  Timberlake describes the sound, the smell, and the spectacle of innumerable birds hovering "over the woods in a thunderhead."  Readers are treated to a picture of  something they can only imagine: "The sky was a feathered fabric weaving itself in and out, unraveling before my eyes" (13).  Here are time and place masterfully depicted.

All this is related by 13-year-old Georgie, the story's narrator.  Smart, sensible, determined, and independent, she is also self-absorbed, scared, and claustrophobic, and, at times, she allows what she wants to be true to cloud her judgment of what is true.  Georgie says that she is "the rock that started the landslide" and the guilt she feels at that, makes her even more determined to find Agatha alive (176) .  In the first chapter, she makes a convincing case for why her sister "would never die and then lie there," but after a frustrating search, she is convinced ("for the most part, probably, almost certainly, yes surely") that Agatha is dead with "a d at the beginning, a d at the end. No forward or backward." (6, 133)  Early in their journey, Georgie determines Billy's reason for accompanying her, reevaluates her decision when they get to Dog Hollow, and finally, discovers the truth at the journey's end.  Georgie's voice radiates certainty, insecurity, and thoughtfulness.  I loved travelling with her.

With One Came Home, 2013 is off to a great start.

Review copy received from the publisher.

One Came Home
by Amy Timberlake
published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
January 2013

Recommended for ages 9 and up

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