Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, Moon Over Manifest follows twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker as she tries to make sense of her father’s past and her own present. Left to stay in Manifest, Kansas with Pastor Shady Howard, Abilene feels abandoned by her father. Learning about his past helps her understand him better and ultimately reunite with him. Set in both 1917 and 1936, the novel provides rich historical context along with a heartwarming emphasis on the importance of family and community. Young readers will also be exposed to a mixture of text formats, as Vanderpool weaves her story through multiple narrators, flashbacks, letters, and newspaper articles.
The mine owner, Arthur Devlin, creates a conflict for many of the townspeople of Manifest, including Ned Gillen. Devlin works the men too hard, pays them poorly, and feeds ethnic prejudices. He leaves the miners disheartened and desperate.
Gideon is in conflict with himself when he blames himself for the deaths of those he loves. He believes that he is a “jinx” and doubts his value to his friends and daughter.
The Spanish Influenza that hits Manifest in 1918 is a conflict caused by nature. The humans do their best to fight the disease, but Manifest loses many of its residents to this deadly disease.
Many of the immigrants in Manifest feel restricted by society’s prejudices. Miss Sadie feels the weight of prejudice. Because she does not want to bring shame and rejection on her son as a poor Hungarian immigrant, she allows him to be raised by a stranger as she watches sadly from a distance. The locals spread rumors about her and leave her to live in isolation.