One Came Home is a brilliant story set in 1871 in Wisconsin about a 13 year-old girl whose sister goes missing at the same time a body is found wearing a dress she owned.
Georgie is convinced her sister, Agatha, is alive. The body is badly decomposed and in a few pieces. Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Georgie sets off on a borrowed mule with Billy, a boy who loved Agatha, to the town the body was discovered, Dog Hollow. Agatha was last seen with a pair of traveling pigeoners (people who followed the passenger pigeons before they were extinct). Georgie starts asking questions and soon discovers a family up in the hills by the name of Garrow. Their oldest daughter ran off at the same time as Agatha went missing to get married and she looks just like Agatha. One of the Garrow sisters has a ribbon in her hair matching the Agatha’s dress. Georgie is convinced it’s the same material so how did the little girl obtain the ribbon?
Before Georgie can find out, she stumbles upon a hidden cave full of counterfeiting plates. Running from the Garrow men, Georgie finds herself using her sharp-shooter skills to scare them off and break up the ring. A hero and still doubtful her sister is dead, Georgie returns home when her grandfather unexpectedly dies. She resumes her life, helping in the family store, still wondering about her sister.
Finally, a letter arrives. It’s from her sister. She ran off to attend college to study nature in Madison, WI. She had seen the articles in the paper about Georgie and wrote to see if all was okay. She had met up with the Garrow girl and had sold her her dress for her wedding. The Garrow girl was accidentally shot when she grabbed a shot gun and the trigger went off. Panicking, her father left her body to be found.
And the ribbon? The dress had been torn in an argument with her father before she was shot. Her little sister then took the material for a bow.
Full of every twist and turn you can imagine, One Came Home by Amy Timberlake deserves the Newbery Honor Award it won in 2014. It may be better suited for older kids just because of the subject of death. Georgie grows as a person as she learns self-sufficiency and the depth of love. Extremely well-written, historically accurate, a vivid picture of the passenger pigeon, and an overall great read. Highly recommended.