Book review: “Homecoming” by Cynthia Voigt

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This is the first book in the highly-honored seven-book series about the Tillerman family, which also includes the Newbery Medal winner Dicey’s Song and the Newbery Honor book A Solitary Blue. The author’s other interesting-sounding titles include JackarooThe Callendar PapersTell Me if the Lovers Are Losers, and The Vandemark Mummy.

This is the story of four siblings, between the ages of six and thirteen, whose mother leaves them sitting in a parked car in a strange town and never comes back. Sammy, the baby of the family, is stubborn and proud, considered a trouble child by many adults. Gentle, soft-spoken Maybeth, on the other hand, is often mistaken for a mentally retarded child. Boy genius James wakes up every day realizing that “It’s still true.” And Dicey, the oldest, is determined to keep her family together and find a place for them to live.

First they march across Connecticut, scraping for money, food, and a place to sleep. But when they reach what they hoped to be the end of their journey, —the home of a great aunt in Bridgeport, —they find that things have changed. Living with their fussy, would-be-nun Cousin Eunice won’’t be easy, especially on Dicey, who somehow can’’t feel as grateful as Cousin Eunice wants her to. So they make another arduous trek, headed for the East Shore of Maryland and a grandmother they never knew existed. Along the way they pass through more dangers than ever, and find good friends as well. But will they find the home and family they need, even at the end of this last-chance trip?

This is a rich, honest, searching, and powerful story, depicting the best and worst in human nature, the pains and joys of childhood, and the terrible, wonderful determination of four siblings to stick together. Children should not have to go through so much to find a place to lay their head, a bit of daily bread, and a home where they are loved. For those who do, this book is a stirring tribute. For those fortunate enough never to have to make a journey like the Tillermans’, it is simply a must-read book.