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Moon Over Manifest Paperback – December 27, 2011
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Starred review, BOOKLIST, October 15, 2010:
After a life of riding the rails with her father, 12-year-old Abilene can’t understand why he has sent her away to stay with Pastor Shady Howard in Manifest, Missouri, a town he left years earlier; but over the summer she pieces together his story. In 1936, Manifest is a town worn down by sadness, drought, and the Depression, but it is more welcoming to newcomers than it was in 1918, when it was a conglomeration of
coal-mining immigrants who were kept apart by habit, company practice, and prejudice. Abilene quickly finds friends and uncovers a local mystery. Their summerlong “spy hunt” reveals deep-seated secrets and helps restore residents’ faith in the bright future once promised on the town’s sign. Abilene’s first-person narrative is intertwined with newspaper columns from 1917 to 1918 and stories told by a diviner, Miss Sadie, while letters home from a soldier fighting in WWI add yet another narrative layer. Vanderpool weaves humor and sorrow into a complex tale involving murders, orphans, bootlegging, and a mother in hiding. With believable dialogue, vocabulary and imagery appropriate to time and place, and welldeveloped characters, this rich and rewarding first novel is “like sucking on a butterscotch. Smooth and sweet.”
Starred review, KIRKUS REVIEWS, September 15, 2010:
“Readers will cherish every word up to the heartbreaking yet hopeful
and deeply gratifying ending.”
Starred review, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, September 27, 2010:
"Replete with historical details and surprises, Vanderpool's debut delights,
while giving insight into family and community.”
Review, THE BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS, November 2010:
"Ingeniously plotted and gracefully told."
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Moon Over Manifest, Clare Vanderpool’s first novel, is set in the fictional small town of Manifest, Kansas, which is based on the real southeastern Kansas town of Frontenac, home of both of her maternal grandparents. Drawing on stories she heard as a child, along with research in town newspapers, yearbooks, and graveyards, Clare found a rich and colorful history for her story. Clare lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband and their four children.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
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Once my daughter was done with the book, my husband and I devoured it. We couldn't put it down! It was a great chance to talk to our daughter about what we would call "Americana" of earlier time periods, as older cultural contributions relate to the story line: Burl Ives and his song "The Big Rock Candy Mountain", and Tennessee Ernie Ford's "16 tons." HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
The writing is solid, the characters believable, and the story is engaging. Vanderpool develops her characters through dialogue and action and less through direct description. The book is aimed at young adults, but the content matter and writing easily engages adults. All in all, an excellent read!
This book integrates present and past as smoothly as any I've ever read. In fact, the characters from the past almost overshadow the characters in the present. Almost, but not quite. This is very much Abilene's story about family and hope and community. The main theme, I felt, was about how human beings often make assumptions that prove to be incorrect and only by taking the time to look deeper can we truly get to know each other. The writing becomes secondary to the journey the reader makes, hoping, like Abilene, to find a place called home. I find this book very much worthy of the Newbery Medal that it received.
The story starts with young Abilene Tucker, a motherless girl sent by her father Gideon to stay in the Town of Manifest, Kansas while he pursues employment in Des Moines, Iowa. In her father's absence, Abilene realizes how little she really knows about Gideon. She hopes to fill that hole (and the matching hole in her heart) by "finding" him in Manifest, because she knows the town holds special connection for Gideon, although what that connection is seems to be awfully elusive.
The first hopeful hint comes in the form of a box Abilene discovers beneath the floorboards in the room she occupies in Pastor Shady Howard's place - a place that is part saloon, part church. The box contains several trinkets and a package of letters from Private Ned Gillen to "Jinx". Abilene is a bit disappointed, as she thought the box might have been Gideon's. Nevertheless, along with newfound friends Lettie and Ruthann, she begins tracking down the various mysteries presented in the letters - starting with the identity of "The Rattler - and piecing together stories of Manifest's past through local residents and through reporter Hattie Mae's "News Auxiliary" articles from the year 1918. But the townspeople are a little - or a lot - closed-lipped. Even Shady is a bit slippery, and there's only so much to be learned from the brief news articles. It's not until Abilene finds herself on the "Path to Perdition" to Miss Sadie's Divining Parlor that she really begins to put the pieces together.
Much to Abilene's dismay, Miss Sadie tells her the story of Jinx, not the story of Gideon. Despite herself, however, Abilene (and her friends) soon becomes hooked on the story of the mysterious, affable yet hapless youth who made his appearance in Manifest in 1918. The book alternates between Abilene narrating events of the present, Miss Sadie narrating events of 1918, clips from Hattie Mae's "News Auxiliary" and letters from Ned to Jinx, each new piece giving us tantalizing new pieces of the puzzle of the relationship between the two boys, the connection to the Town of Manifest, and the relevancy to her own life.
Ms. Vanderpool has created a masterpiece of a narrative. The book is engaging from page one. Manifest is an enticing mystery - one that we want to peel back layer by layer and savor like a butter-soaked artichoke. Before the book opens, there is a list of characters - those from 1918 and those from 1936. From this list we learn that in 1918 Shady Howard was a saloon owner and bootlegger, and by 1936 he is Pastor Shady Howard, "still a little shady". From the beginning he is one of the most intriguing characters and perhaps the key to this town that is more than it appears to be on the outside.
The story itself is a heartwarming tale full of hope, as the town comes together to loosen the stranglehold of greedy mine owner Arthur Devlin. It is also the story of the tragedy that corrupts that newfound solidarity. It is a tale of suspicion of outsiders and provincialism. It's a tale of love and loss. And it's a tale of the rekindling of hope that just one young girl can spark.
While there are plenty of suspicions and accusations, there aren't any real villains to this story (with the possible exception of Arthur Devlin, but even he's just a businessman doing business), and there are no heroes. All the characters have their faults and warts, but deep down, they're just people, mostly decent people, just trying to make it in the world. It's only when they rise above their suspicions and fears that they become more than the sum of their parts. Their faults turn to assets and their decency rises to the fore.
The realism of this book is also helped by the way Ms. Vanderpool weaves in actual historical events, including the "Great War" and the 1918 flu epidemic. All the elements, historical and fictional, weave together to create a truly satisfying tale complete with adventure, schemes, love, loss, tragedy, redemption and people you can love. You might just find yourself wanting to move to Manifest. Highly recommended for kids age 8 to 108.