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Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is the daughter of a drifter who, in the summer of 1936, sends her to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up, and where she hopes to find out some things about his past. Over the summer she pieces together his story. 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.
Clare Vanderpool does a good job of weaving Manifests 1918 story into Abilenes 1936 life. Through Ned's letters, Hattie Mae's News Auxilliary, and of course Miss Sadie's story. I enjoyed this book very much.
A debut novel reminiscent of Richard Peck’s historical fiction, though without his trademark humor. Which is not to say that the book’s humor falls short; rather, Moon Over Manifest’s strength is its narrator, twelve year old Abilene. The novel shifts easily between Abilene’s 1936 present, and her father’s 1918 past, as Abilene discovers Manifest’s history, and her father’s history as well. Different typefaces make the shift between past and present clear, and Vanderpool cleverly clarifies points in the narrative that readers may miss through other characters. She uses enough historical detail to have a richly evocative world, without burdening the narrative. Some middle school readers will chafe at the pace of the text; 346 pages covers one summer of Abilene’s life and much of the action centers on events in the past. However, readers who like historical fiction and well-developed characters will find this a satisfying read. Vanderpool helpfully provides a list of characters, and also has an afterword that discusses what is nonfiction and what she created. Budding writers may be interested in her description of how she fictionalized the town her grandparents grew up in. Highly recommended for purchase by school libraries, but please, avoid making this great novel into a ‘school book’. For readers not ready for it, it would be a waste of a great story.
Interesting story that weaves together two different years in a small town in Kansas and the people who lived there. I liked that there was a bit of a mystery to who the characters in 1918 were and how the items Abilene finds under the floor all have significance to the story.