Sunday, July 17, 2011
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
This book was a nice dive back into novel reading for me after taking a few weeks off. You know how I love a spunky 12 year old girl protagonist! Abilene has been sent to live with strangers while her father works on the railroad for the summer. She is brave and knows how to take care of herself, but is still lonely for her father that loves her and worries that their separation might not be temporary. She has a sweet voice, and talks about "universals," the things you can count on in any town. Things like snobby rich girls, chalky classrooms and things "everyone knows" except the new girl.
Abilene is anxious to learn more about her father's life in Manifest, and is searching for any stories about him. There's a really poetic part where she notices footprints all over the wood floors, and wonders if any might be her father's from when he lived there. She sets off to discover the mysteries hidden in a box of letters and mementos she has found. As she reads the letters, her neighbor Miss Sadie fills in more stories. So the book switches back and forth from 1936 when Abilene is living in Manifest, to 1918 when her father was living there. I think the two stories weave together well.
I liked how the characters were nice! The circumstances were often sad surrounding both Abilene and Jinx, but you could feel that they felt safe and loved in Manifest. My favorite part was when the town (in 1918) worked together to outbid the coal mine bosses for some property. It was a perfect example of coming together and making something good out of what seems like a hopeless situation. (Even if it did involve alcohol and a con!)
"'Amen,' they said in unison, these citizens of the world, and they held their breath as the many and varied ingredients that had been simmered and stewed, distilled and chilled, were combined to make something new. Something greater than the sum of its parts."
There were times when the story felt a little slow to me. Like there were a few threads going, and many of them weren't going anywhere. The search for "the rattler" for instance, seemed to go by the wayside, then was wrapped up at the end without much to do. And Sister Redempta, who I loved, seemed to fade away too.
I liked the characters in this book, but didn't really fall in love with them the way I hoped. The small town setting, characters trying to discover more about their past, growing up, working together, these are the kind of themes that endear books to me, but this one fell a little short for me.
BUT, I would recommend this. It is a good read. I think it would be great for anyone who likes heart-warming stories, and especially if you like historical fiction. I would recommend it for kids too. Maybe 9 and up? This is Clare Vanderpool's first book and it won a Newbery medal! I'm looking forward to reading the next books she writes and I hope I like them even more!