Moon Over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool
Narrators: Jenna Lamia, Cassandra Campbell, Kirby Heyborne
Run Time: 9 hrs and 31 minutes
Producer: Listening Library
The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.
I typically don’t play much attention to books that win the Newberry Award (or similar), but after listening to Moon Over Manifest, I am intrigued to check out more of them (I think the last one I remember reading was The Giver – Lois Lowry). My purpose for picking up this book…I was looking for an audiobook that had 2 or more narrators that my library had available immediately…and thus, I grabbed Moon Over Manifest to listen to (yes, I know, a hugely scientific method of picking which book to listen to next).
My initial reaction/thoughts, when I heard the name of the main character, was Abilene – I wonder what the etomology of that name is, since it isn’t one you normally hear (and the last i heard it was in The Help). According to Think Baby Names, the origins of the name is one of Hebrew origin and it is believed to have been derived from the hebrew word for grass – which now that I think about it kind of fits the character of Abilene. She was truely a girl that I would love to sit down and have a meal with to talk – the whole idea of her existing (along with her father) in a state of perpetual motion moving from place to place.
But the story in itself is a coming of age, finding out what your place is in the world – which in part means, where did you come from? And for Abilene that is the purpose behind her summer in Manifest – finding out the story of her past. But tied in with finding out her past, understanding the history of the town and the time period itself. It is really hard to say more about the book without revealing any spoilers, and I don’t really want to do that, so I am just going to leave my review of the book as is…
When it came to the narrators, the only one of the three that I had previously listened to – Kirby Heyborne – and when I saw that he was one of the narrators I jumped at the narration. I had also heard good things about Cassandra Campbell, although I had never listened to anything done by her. I was also a bit confused at the beginning because Overdrive listed Justine Eyre as the main narrator, but the audiobook listed and stated Jenna Lamia – so I thought at the beginning that maybe they were a pseudonym of each other, but I found out I was wrong.
I have no real complaints about the narration – I thought that all three of the narrators fit their roles well and added to the depth/texture of the story. If I was to make one comment, I think that Kirby Heyborne was a bit under-used. He, specifically, was the voice of Ned, one of the boys from Manifest who was fighting in WW1. While I think his voice was great for. However, some of the other flash-backs I think could have used his voice – especially since they were told from the perspective of a young boy. While a bit nit-picky, that was my biggest complaint about the overall narration.
I was a bit conflicted overall with what to give Moon Over Manifest – I was wavering at a 3.5, but not sure if I should round up or down and now sitting down and thinking about it – I think I am going to go with the round-up option. This is the type of book, while written for a young-adult audience, can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone who enjoys historical fiction.