"Who would dare think the outcast and abandoned can find a home? Who would dream that one can love without being crushed under the weight of it? A miracle cure to heal the sick? Pah. What makes us think any of this could be true? And yet all of us, we participate in this myth, we create it, perpetuate it."
Staged in the desolate years of America’s Great Depression, Clare Vanderpool’s first novel sets out to be a work of historical fiction but flies past such categorization almost instantaneously, instead choosing to consistently dwell pleasingly deep in a pool of careful and subtle characterization. As it opens, Abilene Tucker is on her way to Manifest, Kansas, a town her father Gideon has always colorfully spoken of during their life on the road.
Though the color palette and physical reality of the town may initially seem far more drab than she had envisioned, the intrigue and mystery that almost instantly manifests itself draws her and the reader into a vibrant, intricate, and sometimes foreboding yarn.
The rub is that as an adult reader the twists and turns are almost always easy to see coming. However, this is in actuality a non-issue as 1.) it’s children’s literature, 2.) a focus of the narrative is the power of seeing a story unfold even if you know the ending, and 3.) it had me so focused on what I assumed was the biggest reveal that I didn't see the ending coming at all.
It’s really quite an exquisite work in that it can show young readers how effectively plot threads, events, and objects can be woven together into a dense, satisfying reading experience. It does this with great delicate care much more akin to Watchmen (1987) than John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines (2006), which I personally feel was unreadable because of its hammer-fisted attempts to guide readers into understanding the use and value of metaphors.
I randomly chose this from the shelf when I found myself in a library in need of mental stimulation and it pleases me to think that those in its intended audience can do much the same and be equally as surprised and fulfilled.
4½ Tracks to Here and Back out of 5
Nutted by NEG