Study Guide

Billy McCabe in One Came Home

By Amy Timberlake

Billy McCabe

Heartbreaker, Dream Maker

Or maybe just heartbreaker, unless your dream is to homestead in Minnesota, in which case good luck with that. Billy McCabe, Agatha's teenage sweetheart, is the cutest boy in town, and we think he knows it. Georgie, however, doesn't understand the attraction at first:

Billy McCabe was considered the good-looking one. I granted Billy this: he stood half a head taller than Mr. Olmstead. As he'd aged into his nineteen years, his chest and arms had thickened so much I couldn't call him Beanstalk anymore, and his hair had changed from cornsilk white to the color of wet sand. But those characteristics didn't seem enough to warrant the way his grin caused chaos with every idiot girl I'd ever met. (1.43)

And then she does get it:

Feeling bolder, I let my one open eye linger on Billy, sipping him in, taking my time. Yes, he was well made. I would give him that. I thought about how we'd walked side by side into Garrow Farm, how he'd made me laugh, and how I made him laugh too. I thought about how I had known him all my life. He called me smart! I was wrong about Billy McCabe. He wasn't half bad. (15.57)

For all his good looks, though, Billy doesn't seem to be too much of a player. He has only two girlfriends in the novel, Agatha and Polly Barfod, and Agatha turns down his marriage proposal and fully rejects him before he starts courting Polly.

Big Brother is Watching

There's no question that Billy is a big brother figure. First, we know he's had a lot of practice since, as the eldest of five boys whose mother died in childbirth when he was only eight, Billy's spent some time taking care of younger children. Georgie says:

Whereas my family overflowed with women, Billy's family was devoid of them. As the oldest, Billy had taken on many tasks himself, including patching and sewing. I'd watched him mop a brother's chin more than once. (5.91)

It's clear that Billy regards Georgie as a little sister, which makes sense because he's been courting her older sister for several years. He gives her a nickname, tries to take care of her, and while he is being paid to accompany her on this trip, we get the sense that he also genuinely cares about her welfare and wants her to work through her feelings about Agatha's death.

Trickster, but Not in a Fun Way

Georgie forgives Billy for tricking her into believing he came with her of his own accord, when really Grandfather Bolte is paying him to watch out for her—essentially, Billy's babysitting Georgie while she's off on this wild goose chase.

In the end, though, Georgie and Billy's relationship can't survive the other trick he pulls on her, which is making her believe there's something to his kiss with Agatha so she'll tell Mr. Olmstead, inspiring him to break things off with Agatha. It's Billy's ploy to get Agatha back, but Georgie has no sympathy with his confession:

"So, so sorry… why I came here. To make up."

I stared at him for what seemed like a long time. Finally, I said: "You did not show love to my sister. You never cared for me. You talk to your maker about it." And I walked off. (18.54-55)

Time does not ease Billy's betrayal for Georgie. When he tries to apologize again back in Placid, she says, "Go. Please," (21.38) and that's the last time she ever sees him since he promptly marries Polly Barfod and moves away. We feel as torn as Georgie does over this ending. She says:

I'd had enough of Billy McCabe. Though, oddly, I also desired to have a long talk with him. He was the only person who had experienced everything I had. (21.32)

Billy's there, one of the few characters we spend a lot of time with, and then he's just gone, completely out of Georgie's life. After being around for so many years and then adventuring with her to find Agatha, it must be strange not to know him anymore. Since his dad marries Georgie's mom in the end, though, we'll keep our fingers crossed for a reunion someday. Maybe by then time will have healed all Georgie's wounds.