Audio Review: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool


November 19, 2012 by Heidi

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool audio book coverTitle: 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.

Seriously…it has:

  • Conspiracy
  • Diviners
  • The Great Depression
  • World War I
  • Epistolary aspects
  • Stories within stories that slowly line up
  • An amazing narration
  • Middle Grade
  • Historical Fiction
  • Speakeasy
  • Nuns
  • Evil pit boss
  • the KKK
  • Immigration stories
  • Hobos
  • Morse code
  • Spies
  • Hooch
  • Murder
  • Sickness
  • 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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  1. Ana says:


  2. I can’t even. I just, I’m so happy right now!

    I want to make a big, long comment but all of the things I would say, you already know because you love this book too. I KNOW YOU WANT TO HUG IT, DON’T YOU? Even the audiobook.

    • Heidi says:

      I do want to hug it, so much! I was SO happy that you went and checked out the audio for this one. I know you like to listen to rereads, and this is such an excellent choice, I’m sure you’re going to love it!

  3. BACK IT THE EFF UP. NUNS? WORLD WAR I? THE GREAT DEPRESSION? Heidi that list you made has pretty much everything I look for in a book.

  4. I agree, Moon over Manifest is fantastic. Although I usually like the Newbery winners, I usually prefer the Newbery honors more. Not so with Moon over Manifest. I haven’t listened to the audio, but the physical book is amazing. I hope I enjoy Navigating Early as much. So glad you liked it.

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, I’m often torn on Newberry books, but this one I’m behind no questions asked. I really hope that Navigating Early is just as good–it sounds it!

  5. Woah, I would have never thought from the simplistic cover on this one that it would have SO much in it! I’ll definitely have to check it out now. It sounds WAY too good to miss! :) Fantastic review, Heidi!

    • Heidi says:

      I ADORE the simplistic cover on this one–the covers are gorgeous. I hope that you do check it out, Keertana. It’s a whole lot of story.

  6. VeganYANerds says:

    I am sure I have heard of this but I can’t remember where/when. This sounds lovely and you had me at heart warming! Plus, the narrator sounds wonderful, they really can make or break a book!

    • Heidi says:

      You probably have since it was the Newberry Winner in 2011. 😛

      Narrators do totally affect books for me, and in this case it was so positively! Very heart warming and lovely indeed.

  7. If someone had described this book with a list of kickass components even half as long as yours, I would have read it months ago. Instead, my yet-to-be-read copy is sitting in one of my storage boxes, and now I’m annoyed that I don’t know exactly where it is right this second. ~*le sigh*~

    • Heidi says:

      Hehehe, I hope that you dig it up and give it a go! I’m with you–I probably would have read it last year if I’d known. 😛

  8. The three things that immediately jumped out at me in that list was diviners, nuns and hobos. SOLD.

    • Heidi says:

      Very good to know! I read this, then Raven Boys, and I’m going to read Diviners soon, so clearly it’s becoming a theme with my reading as well. :)

  9. […] Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Audible) – Heidi at Bunbury In The Stacks wrote a great review of the audiobook with a list of the elements within Moon Over Manifest that rock and I like all of those elements so […]

  10. Ugh, I want to read/listen to this but it’s too many discs for my feeble mind these days. It’s a long MG book, Heidi! But you are some sort of sorceress. I’ll go pick it up. By the end of January. Quote me on that.

    • Heidi says:

      Bwahaha, and yet you’re thinking of listening to Tender Morsels which is almost twice as long? This is such a great audio, I will totally TAKE NOTE of your end of January promises.

  11. […] very light, and this is much more a historical coming of age story.  Great for those who enjoyed Moon Over Manifest, Splendors and Glooms, or Laurie Halse Anderson’s historical […]

  12. […] lot of stock in them. I actually first came across Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool through a review on Bunbury In The Stacks. Heidi, the reviewer, basically pointed out why Moon Over Manifest is so awesome and one of the […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.