Moon Over Manifest Summary

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool is a 2010 novel about Abilene Tucker, a girl who goes to her father's hometown of Manifest, where she uncovers important truths about the past.

  • At her father's behest, Abilene goes in Manifest, Kansas, at the end of the school year in 1936 and stays with a man named Shady.
  • She finds a box of letters under the floorboard of the room she is staying in. The letters, composed in 1918, tell of the youthful adventures of Jinx and Ned.
  • Abilene comes to understand the connections between the letters and her father's life.



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Last Updated on August 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1279

It is 1936, and Abilene Tucker finds herself alone on a train with instructions to meet a man named Shady in Manifest, Kansas. Following an accident that left Abilene with a scraped knee and a resulting infection that nearly killed her, her father has decided that their vagabond lifestyle is no longer appropriate for his daughter. Abilene jumps from the train—a trick her father has taught her in their travels—before it reaches Manifest, and she then wanders to Shady’s house. Shady gives her a room to sleep in, and just before falling asleep, she looks for a hiding place for her keepsakes. Lifting up a loose floorboard, she is surprised to find a box of treasures already hiding there. She tucks her own things into the empty space beside it and rushes back to bed.

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The next day, Abilene is forced to attend the local Catholic school’s final day of school. She is prepared for the normal ostracization, and so she puts up a wall to protect herself. She is not prepared when Sister Redempta assigns her a task to complete over the summer, due the first day school resumes in the fall. Abilene is to write her own story, being careful with all details of punctuation and grammar. Abilene is used to leaving places quickly and believes her father will rescue her from Manifest before fall, so she doesn’t think much about the assignment.

Two of her classmates, Ruthanne and Lettie, surprise Abilene later that afternoon when they arrive with sandwiches and Coca-Colas. Not accustomed to such acceptance among her peers, Abilene immediately grows suspicious of their gesture and also grimaces at the invasion of privacy. After all, she had finally settled in to read some of the letters which she had found in the box underneath the loose floorboard in her bedroom. Ruthanne and Lettie convince her that their intentions are kind, so Abilene allows them to read along with her as she journeys into the world of Ned and Jinx, two boys whose adventures are captured in the letters, which are dated beginning in early 1918.

The story then blends several narratives strands: the world of Ned and Jinx in 1918, captured through their letters; Hattie Mae’s News Auxiliary articles, which were published in that era; and the recollections of Miss Sadie, who tells Abilene stories from the past. These narrative threads from 1918 are interspersed with Abilene’s own reflections in 1936 as she tries to determine why her father has sent her to live in Manifest. She comes to believe that Jinx must have been her father when he was a boy.

The letters reveal that Jinx had been nicknamed as such because Finn, who assumed custody of him when he became an orphan, told Jinx that bad luck followed him wherever he went. The two parted ways after the death of Junior. Jinx believed that he accidentally killed the man but had no memory of it, relying instead on the testimony of Finn, who claimed to have witnessed the death. Afterward, Jinx made his way to Manifest, where he was taken in by Shady and became close friends with Ned Gillen, who had been adopted himself after being orphaned as a young child.

As described in the letters, Ned and Jinx concoct a money-making scheme by making their own fireworks, and Ned uses his money to convince an...

(The entire section contains 1279 words.)

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