Book Review : Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool
Gideon Tucker has always managed to provide for himself and his daughter, Abilene, even though times are tough in 1936. Then he decides he needs to take on a new railroad job and it is no place for his daughter. Abilene is sent to Gideon’s old home town of Manifest to live with Shady Howard, part-time preacher and saloon owner. The first day there Abilene is sent to the last day of school receiving an homework assignment for the summer to write a story. She quickly falls into trouble with Miss Sadie, requiring her to work off her debt. While working Miss Sadie relates the adventures of Ned and Jinx while they lived in Manifest. The stories and discovered treasures lead Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on a hunt to solve a mystery and discover the identity of the Rattler.
Adult Point of View
I am thrilled with Clare Vanderpool and amazed that this is a first published novel! I highly recommend it as the people are interesting, the situation is nicely portrayed and it is creative.
Hope is a theme throughout the novel. The immigrants coming to America had hope for a better future. The young men heading off to war had hope of being heroes. The people left behind hoped their loved ones would come home. Jinx hoped to find a home. Shady hoped to be a better man. Miss Sadie hoped to be heard. Gideon hoped for his daughter’s well-being. The town of Manifest was seeking for a hope to pull themselves out of the Depression. Abilene hoped for Gideon to return, and hope for a place to belong. We all need hope.
Oddly it seems like many children’s books, which win awards, are enjoyed even more by the adults than the children. I think that Moon Over Manifest could be read in a school classroom and would be enjoyed because the two story lines include both a female protagonist and male protagonist. I am not sure how well children will be able to read, and understand the book on their own. My one small criticism is that I wish the immigrants’ language was written phonetically so I could imagine them speaking in their thick dialects. Abilene says Miss Sadie’s voice was “thick and savory, like goulash.” I want her voice to roll around me as if I was tasting goulash.
I didn’t guess how Miss Sadie was connected to the town of Manifest, and I didn’t guess the identity of the Rattler. I love it when I can’t guess the twists the author invents. Even though Abilene’s telegram is over the top I laughed and was happy she found the answers she was hoping to find.
I loved how Vanderpool introduces the hodge podge of cultures in Manifest through the immigrants’ native dishes and sporting games. It is also interesting to consider the plight of the immigrants’ working conditions in 1936 compared to the conditions of today’s immigrants. Aren’t immigrants still seeking hope for a better future? In fact, isn’t the American Dream truly a dream of hope?
I absolutely loved Moon Over Manifest, this is a book worth owning. Vanderpool’s next novel, Navigating Early, is out and I loved it! Check it out!
4.5 out of 5 stars