Georgie Burkhardt knows that the unidentifiable body buried in the family plot is not that of her older sister, Agatha, who recently ran away. In the adventurous historical novel One Came Home, based on two actual events in Wisconsin in 1871, the spunky 13-year-old heroine and best shot in Placid, Wisconsin, sets out to find her sister. She prepares for the trip with advice from Randolph B. Marcy’s The Prairie Traveler (a real book from which the author quotes), a few gold dollars and a Springfield single-shot rifle, and is surprised when Billy McCabe, Agatha’s unrequited love interest, shows up to accompany her.
The pair follow the path Agatha took with pigeoners, who crossed the Midwest trailing the country’s largest recorded migration of the now-extinct passenger pigeon. On the long ride atop a stubborn mule, the outspoken, headstrong girl has plenty of time to reflect on the events that led to Agatha’s departure (including Georgie’s own guilty actions), the handsomeness and unexpected kindness of Billy, and the meager clues that may lead to Agatha’s return. She tells it all in folksy narration, topped with self-deprecating humor.
Georgie’s not just a thinker, though. She roars into action when faced with cougars, ruthless counterfeiters, a mistaken woman who resembles Agatha and even death. As she makes some hard decisions, she learns to see the world beyond appearances and her own wishes. The author seamlessly introduces food, clothing, transportation and societal manners from the time period, allowing readers to learn about the era without even realizing it. Through Georgie’s unrelenting journey, Amy Timberlake has crafted a True Grit for the middle school set.