Juvenile historical fiction
"The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed
my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I knew only
from stories. The one just outside of town with big blue letters:
MANIFEST: A TOWN WITH A RICH PAST AND A BRIGHT FUTURE."
I was shelving in the Orono Public Library children's wing. I
was working slowly and in the dreamy state being in proximity to so
many fine books induces in me. I read the first paragraph of Moon
Over Manifest. I just had to dive into the fictional world Clare
Vanderpool had created. It was all I could do to not give in to
temptation right then and there.
Moon Over Manifest is sort of like a cross between American
Girls historical fiction and Nancy Drew mysteries with language as
rich as homemade peach ice cream. Abilene Tucker has never had a
permanent home. Like many other folks in the 1930's, she's drifted
from place. Always before, though, she's been in the company of her
father, Gideon. Fir some reason she can't quite fathom he's sent her
alone to the town where he grew up.
Gideon has told her so many stories about Manifest she has
images of a prospering town full of well off people. Reality doesn't
quite live up to her expectations. The sign is badly weathered and
chipped. The stores are dingy with only a few weary people in
evidence. The minister she's been sent to live with seems to be quite
well captured by his unusual name, Shady.
Fortunately Abilene doesn't have much time to indulge in self
pity. Her first night in Manifest she discovers a cigar box full of a
map, letters, and mysterious objects. A letter written in 1918
alludes to a spy, The Rattler. She and new friends, Lettie and
Ruthanne, inquire around town about The Rattler. No one seems to have
heard of him. In fact they're tiring of the spy hunt when they
receive an omenous note: "Leave Well Enough Alone."
That night Abilene realizes she's lost her most prized
possession, the compass Gideon gave her. Retracing her steps in the
spooky moonlight, she hears the sound of wind chimes coming from Miss
Sadie's Divining Parlor, a "den of iniquity" with a metal gate with
the word perdition welded on. Hanging among the wind chimes is her
Trying to retrieve her compass the next day, Abilene runs into
Miss Sadie herself. She also breaks a pot the diviner highly prizes.
They work out an agreement that she will do chores as restitution.
But with the chores come stories--stories that involve the cigar box's
mysterious objects--stories of Manifest in a time when young men went
from high school to war, bootleggers defied Prohibition laws, a town
newcomer tries to escape his past, the KKK persecutes foreigners
relentlessly, and townspeople strive to escape the cruel tyranny of
the Devlin Coal Mine. Abilene believes these stories may hold clues
to who Gideon was and why he chose to send her away so abruptly.
Adults as well as children will find this spellbinding novel
impossible to put down. What a gem for a history fair or a mother-
daughter book club!
On a personal side: I very much enjoyed the first snow day of the
year and my Adam's 15th birthday.
A great big shout out goes out to my chum Lauren from Glenburn. She's
a very gutsy woman, not afraid to speak her mind, proud to be rough
around the edges, loyal, warm hearted, and caring--the kind of woman,
with any luck, Abilene would grow up to be.
Julia Emily Hathaway
January 29, 2012
Sent from my iPod