MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool, Delecorte Press, 2010
This Newbery winner, a debut novel, came from the author’s family roots. Drawing on stories she heard as a child, she followed leads in town newspapers, yearbooks, and graveyards, and based Manifest, a fictional town, on the real southeastern Kansas town of Frontenac, home of both her maternal grandparents. It’s a subtle blend of fact with fiction.
The year is 1936. Family money problems then and now have an eerie similarity. Abilene is 12 and wishes she knew more about her father, a quiet “drifter.” Abilene’s voice is sweet and pure, but plenty strong. She has a code of ethics and is nobody’s pushover. When her father sends her to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up, part of her is reluctant but her quest for information is off and running.
Manifest may seem tired and frayed at the edges, but Abilene and her new friends, Ruthanne and Lettie, uncover secrets and investigate with all the determination of a detective agency for girls only. They find mysterious letters, go on a spy hunt, and meet reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner whose stories are rich with tales of the past. As the narrative alternates between stories about a couple of boys Abilene and her friends discover and the adventures of the girls themselves, Abilene finds the thread that weaves her life into the town’s fabric.
Start your own mother/daughter summer book club with this one. Make it new to you.