It has been a taxing week with little odds and ends that have not gone quite right. No, nothing tragic but a splinter can sometimes irritate as badly as a full board! Things like a computer running too slow, losing a whole distribution list of addresses for the members of the Writers’ Guild, not finding a drain board that fit my sink when the old wore out after ten years, ordering a tea maker that would not work when it arrived (and company with no phone number), DH’s shingles meds running out and no doctor to refill them, etc…shall I go on? I think not!
The one thing I did accomplish was to read the Young Adult novel Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. The story is set in the town of Manifest which was modeled on Frontenac, Kansas. Vanderpool mentioned towns like Scammon, Weir, Erie, and Joplin, Missouri, all towns or bergs from my own life. I bet this is the first time my hometown of Erie was ever mentioned in a piece of fiction!
The time period is the Depression Era alternating with the World War I years. The story opens when Abilene’s wandering father deposits her in Manifest while he works on the railroad in Iowa. Abilene finds a mystery to solve while she learns to love the immigrant residents of small town Manifest where coal mining is the main livelihood. Unfortunately, the mines are owned by a controlling and greedy man and the people who came to America for a better life are trapped in a hard way of life again. Throw in the Klan, a diviner, Spanish influenza, Orphan Trains, and Prohibition and readers get quite a story packed with history on the side.
Vanderpool tells her readers in a historical note that the original town of Frontenac was made up of immigrants from 22 countries in 1918. Today, Frontenac is a bedroom neighbor of Pittsburg where every Labor Day weekend the Little Balkan Days celebration is held. It is a celebration of those immigrant peoples who came to dig out coal, lead, and other things from the earth. Along with crafts and street dances, the community has ethnic food booths, polka dancing, and bocce ball tournaments.
My own family history brushes the area as my great-father had a still somewhere west of the Frontenac area. He also played the fiddle in a music group and owned dance halls. He was an orphan and family stories tell that a buckboard was taken to Topeka to bring him back to the St. Paul, Kansas area as a baby. I can’t help but wonder if he wasn’t from an Orphan Train.
So many people have immigrant roots that readers will relate to many parts of Vanderpool’s book. The story holds memories for older readers, information for young readers, and entertainment for both.