Moon Over Manifest

Rarely do I read the same book twice, at least within a short space of time. My stack awaiting a turn is too high to allow me that luxury, but sometimes . . .

Moon Over Manifest, a debut novel by Clare Vanderpool, took the bloggers who predicted Newbery winners by surprise in 2011. I followed several discussions, and it hardly made the conversation. I wondered what kind of book could come out of the shadows to be the winner – a very good one as it turns out.

Set in two time periods almost twenty years apart in the small town of Manifest, Kansas, mysteries belonging to both periods weave themselves together as Abilene Tucker in 1936 unravels both her present time and the town’s historical story while searching for her own answers about her father who has sent her there for the summer. Along with the intertwining story lines, you’ll find Hattie Mae’s news reporting in the local paper that sounds a lot like the county papers where I grew up and clever advertisements for such things as Velma T.’s Vitamin Revitalizer and Old Uncle Jack’s Lumbago Liniment.

Mixed into the mystery and fun are insights both touching and perceptive.
•    “Maybe the world wasn’t made up of universals that could be summed up in neat packages. Maybe there were just people. People who were tired and hurt and lonely and kind in their own way and their own time.”
•    The time gap adds poignancy as Ned completes a 1918 letter from the war zone with “Don’t I wish, buddy. Don’t I wish” and Abilene ends her wondering whether her father is thinking of her in the next chapter with “Don’t I wish, buddy. Don’t I wish.”
•    You’ll need to read the book to find the significance of Miss Sadie’s question for I couldn’t bear to spoil it for you, but I would recommend that you keep her question in mind as you read. “Who would dream that one can love without being crushed under the weight of it?”  

As to why I read it twice in short order, there was just too much going on to feel like I had it all at the end of the first reading. It was like eating a piece of steak that’s so good that the polite part isn’t enough. One is compelled to go back and gnaw the pieces from the bone – and they turn out to be the best of all.

I gave the book to two granddaughters for Christmas – signed, of course. Yesterday I received an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of her new novel Navigating Early that will come out in January. I’ll let you know if Clare can do it twice.