November 19, 2012 by Heidi
Title: Moon Over Manifest [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Clare Vanderpool [Website]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Published: April 5th, 2011 by Listening Library
Format: Audiobook; 9 hrs, 25 min. Read by Jenna Lamia with Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.
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.
Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption.
There are no words that could adequately express the love I feel for Clare Vanderpool’s Newberry Award winning debut, Moon Over Manifest. I very rarely post any but the most basic thoughts about a book on Goodreads right after finishing it, and most often wait until I have had time to collect my thoughts and put them down in some coherent form. With Moon Over Manifest, I immediately posted the following:
This book gets ALL THE STARS.
- The Great Depression
- World War I
- Epistolary aspects
- Stories within stories that slowly line up
- An amazing narration
- Middle Grade
- Historical Fiction
- Evil pit boss
- the KKK
- Immigration stories
- Morse code
- Great stories
- Investigative kids
On top of which it manages to be COMPLETELY HEARTWARMING.
I wish to repeat and expound upon that enthusiasm here–but really? If that amazing list couldn’t convince you that Moon Over Manifest is well worth your time to read, I’m not sure that any further ramblings on my part can do so.
You’ve seen me mention narrator Jenna Lamia on the blog several times now, and there is a reason she has quickly become one of my favorite female narrators. She is the type of narrator that infuses a book with life and makes the audio into an experience that is richer than you could have had merely reading the story on the page (though I have no doubt Moon Over Manifest is also a wonderful read). She is the type of narrator I will listen to because I love the way she tells a story, the kind that can make me check out a book I would have otherwise ignored because she is a part of it. I particularly love her narration of MG and YA books because she has a very young voice–too often narrators with more mature sounding voices sound demeaning when voicing younger characters. In addition, Moon Over Manifest utilizes the talents of Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne to read the newspaper articles and letters that are included in the text, bringing another voice to the story that makes us feel wrapped up in what Abilene and her friends are experiencing through words themselves.
Moon Over Manifest turned out to be a very different story than the one I thought I was getting. It isn’t the story of one girl, it is the story of a town–its present, its history, and its people. It’s a story of family and friendship, a story of home. I adored Abilene and my heart ached for her to find her father, but also to find a place to call her own in Manifest. That said, much more than Abilene’s tale, I was heavily invested in the story of Manifest’s past–a story that had me constantly laughing, holding my breath, and at least contemplating tears. The struggle of a largely immigrant population to find their footing in WWI America where many wish to keep them down is inspiring. It’s a story I could easily go on about at some length, but sometimes no amount of praise will really do a book justice. I will only say that I recommend this one with all my heart.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: I was very fortunate to receive a galley of Vanderpool’s upcoming book, Navigating Early, which I am absolutely certain I will be reading quite soon.
Recommended for: Frankly, everyone, but specifically this book is perfect for those who enjoyed The Mighty Miss Malone or Jellicoe Road. Especially recommended via audio–I am certain I will be listening to this one again in years to come.
Get a second opinion:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile - “There are not that many books for middle graders that depict the World War I era well. The fact that this is one separates it from the sea of other MG Depression era novels it might otherwise have been lost in.”
Into the Hall of Books - “Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. To everyone.”
The Book Smugglers - “when I think about all of this book’s qualities, the assuredness present in the storytelling, the strength of its characters and the emotional impact of this story (seriously, I was sobbing – good tears – at the end) I can hardly believe this is Clare Vanderpool’s debut.”
Steph Su Reads - “ I felt MOON OVER MANIFEST was just average. It’s clever, the way the two storylines finally connected, but that’s not enough to overcome average characters and a slow plot.”
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Category Audiobook, Middle Grade, Review | Tags: conspiracy, disease, diviners, epistolary, Great Deppression, Historical Fiction, hobos, Kansas, KKK, Listening Library, Middle Grade, review, spy, WWI