One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
From the back cover: When the sheriff rides into town with an unidentifiable body–wearing a blue-green ball gown–everyone assumes it’s Georgie Burkhardt’s older sister, Agatha. After all, it is Agatha’s dress.
But Georgie refuses to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to find her sister and bring her home.
Sometimes, we just know we’re right, even when all the evidence arranged in front of us and accepted by everyone we know says we’re wrong. And to be fair, it’s not that Georgie’s family doesn’t believe her or have faith in her undertaking…it’s that they can’t.
Denial is a powerful force. One of the five stages of grief (the other four are anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), denial shelters us from the most painful truths our psyches must face. Sometimes, though—when we get stuck in denial—that shelter becomes a hindrance, keeping us from moving forward through a healthy grieving process.
It is denial that leads Georgie to run away from home in search of the sister everyone else believes is dead. Likewise, denial prompts her family to secretly support that effort—not because they, too, believe Agatha is still alive—but because they need to prove she isn’t.
Georgie lives in a time and a place where she is realistically able to take matters into her own hands. If she lived in the city, or back east, the trappings of her life and the society around her would have made for a very different story, but life on the prairies of Wisconsin in 1871 affords thirteen-year-olds a freedom no longer common.
The ironic thing about Georgie’s behavior in One Came Home is that, in spite of her refusal to accept Agatha’s death, Georgie isn’t acting irrationally. She has evidence to support her position: her knowledge of the love triangle between Agatha, Billy McCabe, and Mr. Olmstead; a deep understanding of Agatha’s personality and dream of attending the University of Wisconsin in Madison; and above all, a certainty that something doesn’t add up.
Georgie’s journey to bring her sister home takes her to perplexing places and teaches her rough lessons. She must decide when to meet a challenge head-on, and when to run. And by the time her story is done, Georgie and her family are not the only ones who must face the truth that we cannot control those we love any more than they can control us.
What we can do, however, is learn what drives us and hold fast to our own truth.