Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Moon Over Manifest: A Captivating Middle-Grade Read

Twelve-year-old Abeline Tucker feels abandoned when her father puts her on a train to Manifest to spend the summer with an old friend. Armed with her few treasured possessions and a list of universals, she jumps off the train in Manifest, hoping to learn about the boy her father was. At first, Manifest seems like a boring, old, dried up town, but all of that changes when she discovers a cigar box of mementos that lead her and her new friends Lettie and Ruthanne, on a real spy hunt. Their hunt sends Abeline down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a visit to Miss Saidie- a diviner who tells stories of the past. Abeline soon discovers that the town is full of shadowy figures and long-buried secrets. As Manifest's secrets are revealed one by one, Abeline begins to discover her own story, woven into the fabric of the town.

When this quiet little book came seemingly out of nowhere last year to win the Newbery Medal, I immediately added it to my reading pile, anxious to see what the fuss was all about. There it sat for about a year as other, higher priority books climbed to the top of the stack. After hearing its praises sung by some of our Middle Grade Lit Chat participants, I impulsively moved it back to the top of the pile and decided that I'd better read it before the 2012 Newbery winner is announced in a few weeks!

Having finished it just minutes ago, I now wonder why I didn't read it sooner. It's a wonderful and rich story that just pushes its way into your consciousness and doesn't let go. I absolutely fell in love with the town and its characters, and the author really brought them to life.

The novel is structured as a story within a story, and readers will feel like they are sitting right alongside Abeline as she tells her stories. While it isn't immediately obvious how the past ties to the present (which being historical fiction is also the past), the way everything comes together will delight and surprise you.

As Sadie reaches the end of her story, Adeline comes to an important realization. Sadie has told her that the line between truth and myth is difficult to see, and Abeline starts to wonder whether or not all of the stories were myths that have nothing to do with her. At that moment, she has a choice. She knows she could walk out and be done, or she can stay and see it through no matter how it ends. She chooses to stay, but it was never really a choice. The people in the stories were real. They were people that she'd come to know and to care about (whether they were living or not), and they were a part of her. They, as she put it, had welcomed her into their world, and now, the only way she could give back was by being faithful to the story no matter how it ended. This is the power of books, and I know we've all read a story or two that made us feel that way, (Little Women anyone?) but somehow as readers we steel our courage and read to the last word, even when we know that our hearts might be broken.

 This is a beautifully written, and beautifully told story, and it reminds us of something important and often forgotten: History is made up of stories, and these stories are full of living, breathing people and places. Abeline hoped to learn something about her father's childhood, but she learned so much more than that. She learned how the past can shape the present and make us who we are. How we can be inspired and devastated by it at the same time, and how an entire town can be brought together by love and loss.