Having never heard of this book before it won the Newbery Award, I walked into Manifest a little more skeptical than most years. It's historical fiction. It's set in 1936. And a girl arrives in Manifest, Kansas, to uncover her father's past. I knew there had to be more to the book than that. And there is.
The story opens as a pretty straightforward first person narrative, but soon things change. Abilene Tucker (the girl) finds a cigar box full of notes and knick knacks. She also happens by a diviner, who begins weaving stories about the notes and items in the cigar box. Abilene takes great interest in Miss Sadie's stories, which, unbeknownst to Abilene, reveal more than meets the ear.
While historical fiction can be as dry as the dirt in Kansas, this book is a finely woven tapestry, with layers of subtle mystery and historical accuracies.
In the end, Abilene uncovers a story within her own story, and it all ties together to form a cohesive narrative full of mischievous characters and a missing piece from Abilene's life.
I hope kids can find the value in Abilene's story while appreciating the intricate storytelling abilities of Ms. Vanderpool.