Book Review: Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt

That’s the first thing James Tillerman says to his sister Dicey every morning. It’s still true that their mother has abandoned the four Tillerman children somewhere in the middle of Connecticut. It’s still true they have to find their way, somehow, to Great-aunt Cilla’s house in Bridgeport, which may be their only hope of staying together as a family.

But when they get to Bridgeport, they learn that Great-aunt Cilla has died, and the home they find with her daughter, Eunice, isn’t the permanent haven they’ve been searching for. So their journey continues to its unexpected conclusion — and some surprising discoveries about their history, and their future.

Cynthia Voigt has a way with description that puts the reader right there in the story. I could picture all the places where the kids crashed at night, and the physical appearance of each character, and of course, the taste of each of the hundred or so meals mentioned. I felt that for the most part, the characters’ emotions and motives were realistic enough. Of course the younger siblings are going to miss their mother badly. The older two were probably more aware of her mental instability and had, in a sense, already been saying goodbye to her for some time. The kids were very industrious for their ages, especially at their grandmother’s, but there was this mutual agreement that to just come and freeload off her would not ensure their being taken in permanently. Abigail Tillerman’s prickly personality made her the most interesting soul in the story. I could relate to Dicey because she had a touch of gender dysphoria. She was more practical than I’ll ever be, but there was little room for sentimentality while struggling to get her family to a safe place. I disliked James’ know-it-all attituded and I liked passive weak Maybeth even less, but at least Ms. Voigt created realistic siblings with good points and bad points. Sammy’s obstinacy and energy helped during the long stifling months in Bridgeport. Now, Homecoming’s ending was satisfactory. I could see kids saying, “Is that all there is” in disgust, but an ending with great fanfare would have been unrealistic. Ms. Voigt wasn’t writing a Disney-style epic, and it seemed right that the kids found acceptance with their grandmother and needed nothing more. I rated three stars because the post-Bridgeport chapters really dragged. The part about hiding out in a traveling circus seemed kind of lame, and I would have hated spending four long days salvaging some strange relative’s farm in the scorching summer. But life is like that, at times exciting and at other times a real drag, with hope lying ahead. I stand by teachers’ decision to push Homecoming as part of their classroom curriculum!

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