Title: Moon Over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool
Pub info: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2010; 368 pp
Genre: MG historical fiction, ages 10+
Book No. 6 on the 2014 TBR List is not only a Newbery winner, it was written by a fellow Kansas native! It's been sitting on my shelf awhile, and I'm so glad I finally sat down and read it.
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.
Status: finished 3/6/14
I'd say, first of all, that the Goodreads summary above is a little misleading. The mysterious spy is not a huge plot in this novel. The real mystery is the heart of Manifest and its people. Now a dusty town beaten down by the Great Depression, Manifest was once a thriving town of immigrants with secrets. I love the format of the book: Abilene's first-person narrative is interspersed with stories from 1918 as told by her new friend Sadie and punctuated by clippings from a 1918 town newspaper. While not a fast-paced novel, the writing is light and easy and the characters so endearing that I opened it each day with a happy sigh, knowing I was in for a treat. Parts of it echoed strains of To Kill a Mockingbird, as I suppose many small-town stories do, but it's neither a paean or a ripoff. Manifest tells its own lovely, quiet story, one that readers will enjoy immensely.
About Clare Vanderpool:
Visit Clare's website here.
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