Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Simply, Moon Over Manifest is the story of 12-year-old Abilene Tucker moving to Manifest, Kansas during the summer of 1936.  Abilene has been living on the road with her father, Gideon, riding the rails during the Great Depression.  Now Gideon has decided that it would be better for her to live a more stable life, even if it means being away from him, back in his hometown while he works a railroad job in Des Moines.  

But Moon Over Manifest cannot be described in one simple paragraph.  One story is layered upon another until author Clare Vanderpool has spun enough yarn to keep readers busy trying to connect the seemingly loose ends.  Consider this:
  • While in Manifest, Abilene tries to learn the story of her father’s younger days growing up in town.
  • Abilene discovers a box of treasures containing several trinkets (a fishing lure, silver dollar, skeleton key, cork) and a number of letters.  Another story develops within those letters.
  • Another story is told by Miss Sadie, a diviner, as Abilene comes to work for her during the summer.  Abilene is introduced to Jinx and Ned, two residents of 1918 Manifest.
  • Abilene and two friends, Lettie and Ruthanne discover and investigate the Rattler, a Manifest legend, ignoring the warning that appears in the tree house, Fort Treeconderoga.
  • The story of Manifest’s history is given in part by Miss Sadie in addition to Hattie Mae Harper’s newspaper articles.
And I’m not even sure that’s it.  Honestly.  Moon Over Manifest demands a second read.  Just looking back to double check facts I’ve already noticed two or three clues laid out in early chapters.  

Remember how Holes had Stanley’s story at Camp Green Lake, Stanley’s personal history, the story of Madam Zeroni and Stanley’s no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, and the doomed romance of schoolteacher Katherine Barlow and Sam the Onion Man?  Remember how they all come together seamlessly at the end?  (Sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.)

Or remember Walk Two Moons?  There was Sal’s journey across America with her grandparents, Sal’s family history in Kentucky, and the story Phoebe Winterbottom, Margaret Cadaver, and the potential lunatic.  Again, three yarns knit seamlessly into one story tapestry with no loose ends.

Books like these with multiple story lines are some of my favorites, and Moon Over Manifest ranks right up there.  Readers will be kept guessing, at times sure they’ve got it figured out while a chapter later re-evaluating their previously drawn conclusions.  In the end readers will want to race forward to see the spectacular conclusion.

Then readers can turn back to page one and slowly savor the story a second time.

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