Book Review: Going Over Home, by Katie Andrews Potter

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The concept of time travel has long been the subject of interest from H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" to the cult favorite movie "Somewhere in Time" starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and of course the "Back to the Future" movie trilogy. "Going Over Home" adds a spin to the time travel idea, incorporating genealogy as part of a time travel narrative.

This debut young-adult novel by Katie Andrews Potter has an interesting premise: what if you found out that you actually belonged to an earlier time period and if you don't go return you negatively alter the course of history for all of your descendants? The reader gets a sense of the journey the book will take from the blurb on the back cover:

"Maddox's life changed the day she read her real birthdate: May 17, 1820. Not 1990, like she'd been told all along. Sure, there had been clues: Her mother's old-fashioned style, the fact that her parent's refuse to talk about her grandparents, but she never could have guessed they were actually from the past. And if that wasn't enough, now she has to go back for good. She has descendants living now, and if she doesn't go back their lives will never be."

The novel begins by introducing the Fox family consisting of a mother, father and five sisters living in the present day. While they are an everyday family there are some little quirks that the reader will notice from the start like not understanding what television or a supermarket is. Their family is fairly insulated and has no contact with any other family members, including grandparents. When Maddox's (a.k.a. Maddie) school teacher assigns a family history project Maddie dreads the assignment. She has to talk to her parent's about filling in a pedigree chart. For some unknown reason her parents won't talk about their own parents or their past. That family tree and a hidden family Bible are the beginnings of a mystery that becomes clearer as Maddie later attends college and her parents have less control over her day-to-day life. With the help of her college roommate she learns why she has never met her extended family and why her parent's seem to be a throwback to a different time.

The concept of time travel does bring up interesting problems, what happens if a present-day person goes back to the 19th century? What would they need to learn to survive? What rights and "privileges" would they be giving up? How would a 19th century person cope with our modern world? This book also deals with the theme of sacrifice. I don't want to give too much away but let me just sum it up that when you introduce the idea of time travel that results in difficult and interesting choices for all the characters involved.

The idea of incorporating genealogy and time travel is one I think would be great for teenagers and young adults. It allows the younger generation to see how genealogy can go beyond the dryness of charts with names and dates and be about telling the story of someone's life. It would also be a great book for homeschoolers or others interested in using a fictionalized account to learn more about genealogy and history. This book discusses the Underground Railroad, slavery, cooking, cemeteries, and more. All perfect topics to use as a jumping off point to further learning.

Going Over Home by Katie Andrews Potter. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.

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