Review: One Came Home

One Came Home

by Amy Timberlake

Find it at: Your library | Amazon | Indiebound

Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House (January 8, 2013)

Recommended reading age: 9 & up

In a nutshell: Okay… I don’t typically include excerpts from books I’m reviewing unless I come along a noteworthy passage that is just too good not to share. This is one of those times. These are the opening lines for One Came Home:

“So it comes to this, I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, 1871. The date sticks in my mind because it was the day of my sister’s first funeral and I knew it wasn’t her last —which is why I left. That’s the long and short of it.
But surely, you’d rather hear the long than the short.”

With a strong opening like that, I knew this book was going to be a page turner. I was sold from the very beginning.

It’s 1871 in the town of Placid, Wisconsin. Quick-tongued and honest to a fault, Georgie Burkardt has a business savvy way with working the family shop, and is a dead shot with a riffle. Her older sister, the beautiful, wild-at-heart, Agatha, has gone missing and later found dead by the sheriff  in another county. In refusing to accept that the mangled body that was buried was her sisters, Georgie sets out on a quest with Agatha’s old beau, Billy, to learn the truth of Agatha’s disappearance in hopes of finding her alive.

The curious element in this story is Placid is along the route of an enormous pigeon migration. Hundreds of thousands of pigeons. The imagery of this phenomenon in Placid reminds me of what it must have been like when swarms of grasshoppers occupied the plains during The Great Depression. Except this is a swarm of birds, and we all know where there are birds there is a good amount of bird poop. Their appearance is threaded throughout Georgie’s story and what you would think would be a bizarre element, fits seamlessly.

One Came Home will keep you wondering whether Georgie’s sister is truly is six feet under or if there’s a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. I found myself wavering back and forth throughout the read wondering if Agatha was really dead or not, but in my heart I was rooting for Georgie’s sake that she wasn’t. The most enjoyable part of the book for me was the playful and endearing relationship between Georgie and Billy, as well as the the slight crush Georgie starts to harbor on Billy- which she also curses. Oh, and the horses! But I don’t want to give too much away about that scenerio – You’ll have to experience that for yourself. Pure comical. When I first started writing this review, I wanted to write about how much it reminded me of True Grit, but for young readers, but then I saw BookPage beat me too it when I came across the author’s website. Guess I wasn’t the only one with that reaction. If there was a grit lit genre for kids, file this book amongst the selected titles. It was not an action-packed western (an assumption I had before reading), but the pace was a steady trot, the historical storytelling vibrant, and the stubborn character of Georgie Burkardt unforgettable.

Don’t take my word for it:One Came Home is a great historical fiction, with lots of heart and soul poured into the characters. A touching story that really shows a young girl coming into her own as she struggles with loss and embarks on a life-changing adventure.” – review by The Book Monsters

Extras: Learn more about author Amy Timberlake here. There’s also a wonderful interview that goes into the inspiration behind One Came Home on Shelf Elf.

 Source of book reviewed: My local library!


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