Monday, January 16, 2012
Clare Vanderpool's first novel is a winner - literally, because it won the Newberry Medal, and figuratively, because it successfully combines many different elements together to bring its story to life for the reader. It is a historical fiction piece, a mystery, and a coming-of-age story all wrapped up in one. Narrator Anabel Tucker is a likable heroine, who at the height of the Depression is shipped off to Manifest, Kansas while her father struggles to make a living on a railroad. While living with a rough-around-the-edges but well-meaning friend of her father, she soon discovers a hidden box of mementos that hold clues to an event that happened a generation before. With some new friends, she sets out to unravel the mystery of Manifest. The book jumps between periods, but in an easy-to-follow way, and the story unfolds in some surprising ways as Anabel reads a WWI soldier's letters home and old newspaper articles, and listens to reclusive Miss Sadie conjure up spirits from the town's past. Vanderpool moves the adventure along nicely and interestingly, as it is set against the backdrop of the first World War, the Depression, mining towns, immigrant discrimination, prohibition, orphan trains, and Hooverville shanty towns. Find this debut novel at J VAN.