Posted by: Lizzie Ross | February 11, 2011

Another ‘must read’

Cover Photo Courtesy Amazon

Moon over Manifest (2010), Clare Vanderpool, 342 pp.

This is a terrific book. One town (Manifest, in southeast Kansas), two time periods (1918 and 1936), a girl and her father, hard times for everyone, bootleg whiskey, hoboes, coal miners and coal mine owners, and mystery Mystery MYSTERY.

The 1936 events, all over a summer in the Dustbowl drought, are narrated by Abilene Tucker. Her voice is young, rebellious, cautious and stubborn. She introduces herself to someone in Manifest:

“Well, I’m Abilene. I’m twelve years old and a hard worker,” I said, like I had a hundred other times in as many towns. “So, I guess you got the letter my daddy sent telling y’all I was coming.”

Mind you, I don’t really say y’all, but it’s usually best to try to sound a bit like the folks whose town you’re moving into. Never being in Kansas before, I wouldn’t know for sure, but I imagined they said things like y’all and up the road a piece and weather’s coming on.

Abilene’s father has sent her to Manifest while he works a tough railroad job. They’ve been on the road for as long as Abilene can remember, and she feels betrayed and abandoned when he sends her off to this small town, where he once lived. Yet, when she arrives, she can find no evidence that he was ever there. Mystery #1.

Then, Miss Sadie, a Hungarian “diviner” (combination fortune teller and mystic) starts telling stories from 1918, and Abilene begins to recognize names and places. Are the stories true? And why is her father never mentioned? Mystery #2.

There are graves and graveyards, coffins and undertakers, an influenza epidemic, and Sister Redempta, a Catholic nun who teaches at Abilene’s school but also seems to be everywhere around town.

I’ll say no more about the plot. But you won’t be disappointed by this. I can guaran-darn-tee ya about that!

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