Karen's Reviews > Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
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Jan 10, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: young-adult, historical-fiction, coming-of-age

By creating Nancy Drew triplets set in 1936 who are tracking down a Tom Sawyer story through a series of flashbacks to 1918, Vanderpool delivers a story that will appeal to both genders and to readers from various generations. She definitely has her own style, which is complex yet elegantly crafted. Nevertheless, I offer these rough-hewn allusions to other works as a way to give you a toe-hold until you delve into the details yourself.

I expect this book will have multi-generational appeal.

I am in my late 40s, and I enjoyed reading more about those who lived in Kansas decades before me. I volunteer at a retirement community, whose residents are eager to start a book club, and I am considering using this book as the first selection because of the conversations it will spark about their own childhoods. I am a mother of a 13 year old boy, and I am hoping that the novel's trickster figure, Jinx, will help introduce my son to the history and the themes packed into this novel. In a few years, my daughter might identify with the three girls who unravel Jinx's mysteries, but the book has a lot of detective-type detail that places things on an abstract level, and it has some life-and-death conflicts that may be too much for her little tender heart to manage at age 9. She might try this book when she's a middle schooler.

It's a good introduction to some Americana themes(albiet fleeting for some of these): small town/main street life, KKK, WWI and WWII, Spanish influenza epidemic, prohibition, midwifery, European immigration, mining conditions / unions, rail riders (hobos), etc. While making this list, I just realized that Vanderpool has zero mention of blacks in both time frames. I don't think there is one black person mentioned as a resident in Manifest (a made up town, but based on a real town on the KS/MO border). Hmmm.

I was very impressed with Vanderpool's ability to manage two time periods, a complex plot, multiple characters in both timeframes, powerful imagery and many mulitlayered sentences. Because my husband is eager to read this book, I tried to read it quickly in order to pass it on to him. However, there were too many layers of meaning in some sentences, and the book starts off with a few mysteries and plenty of suspense, so I kept putting the book down to think a few things through before reading on. For these reasons, I found it engaging, but I think grade school children might find the book difficult.

For those who connect to this book, they will find an interesting meditation on the way families and communities are formed and how they respond to challenges from within and without. I am interested in seeing how this book is received. Am I just biased because I live in Kansas, because I like plot-rich books, and because I work with older adults? It was a very satisfying read for me.
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Reading Progress

January 10, 2011 – Shelved
Started Reading
January 16, 2011 – Shelved as: young-adult
January 16, 2011 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
January 16, 2011 – Finished Reading
July 26, 2011 – Shelved as: coming-of-age

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