Mostly Moon Over Manifest


First, thank you to Deborah Netanel for suggesting The Book Thief. I just picked it from the BSBSD (yep, bedside book stack of doom) and it’s wonderful. More on it later. But can anyone out there think of books other than The Book Thief and several of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books with Death as a/the narrator or main character?


Moon Over Manifest is Clare Vanderpool’s first novel, and is the 2011 Newbery winner. 1936, and Abilene Tucker has spent her life riding the rails with her father, Gideon–part con man, part hobo, currently a railroad worker in Iowa. But her father sent her away to live with a man she’s never met, Pastor Shady Howard, in a place she knows only from Gideon’s stories. So Abilene rides the rails alone to Manifest, Kansas, this time as a paying customer. She knows enough to ditch just out of town before the train stops at the station, so she can get a look at the place before it gets a look at her.

The foreshadowing does start out a bit heavy: not only is the town named Manifest, but it’s sign has faded and been shot up so that it’s gone from “A TOWN WITH A RICH PAST AND A BRIGHT FUTURE” to “A TOWN WITH A PAST.” And let us not dwell too long on why Abilene’s father is named Gideon and why the Pastor’s name is Shady. Nor why the ornate metal gateway to Miss Sadie’s Divining Parlor says “Perdition.” Still, much of the foreshadowing ends up a little slantwise, which always beats straightforward in a story.

This is not one story, but a complex weave of intermixed stories that go back and forth between the Depression-era story of Abilene’s search for clues about how her father fit into the town of Manifest and the identity of “The Rattler,” and the 1917 stories of Jinx and Ned, of a murder, and how a mining town almost reclaimed its own destiny. Along the path we learn how an immigrant mother watched over her child as best she could.

Abilene’s search for her father proceeds through Ned’s letters, Hattie Mae’s columns and Miss Sadie’s stories, and brings the poison of the past up like a poultice brings the abscess on Miss Sadie’s leg to the surface to be drained. The past must be remembered if there is to be hope for the future, and Abilene’s search for her father brings back Manifest’s destiny. Ouch.

Sorry. I couldn’t help myself there.

This is a good book, though it may be a bit hard for the 11-13 year old group that it’s aimed at to get into, both because of its complex structure and because the main character seems oddly distant. She does grow through the book, though, and for those who stick with her, there are real rewards. Recommended.


One Response to “Mostly Moon Over Manifest”

  1. 1 FreePlayTherapy

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