Study Guide

Moon Over Manifest Quotes

  • Family

    Still, I liked imagining that the chain of that broken compass was long enough to stretch all the way back into his pocket, with him at one end and me at the other. (1.5)

    That compass connects more than just Abilene and her daddy. How are Miss Sadie and Ned and Shady connected to them through it, too? And does having a connection like this make them family—all of them?

    I remembered all those things about Gideon, but I couldn't remember if he'd said the words or if I'd only imagined them. Those words I'm coming back for you. (11.5)

    Based on what you know about Gideon, do you think he ever actually said those words to Abilene? If so, why would he lie? If not, why would she be so certain that he was coming back for her?

    "It's just that Mother doesn't feel she knows a person until she knows their aunts, uncles, and second cousins twice removed." (16.18)

    When Pearl Ann says this to Ned, he gets pretty upset—the poor guy doesn't even know his aunts and uncles himself. As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mrs. Larkin is pretty convinced that you can know a lot about a person's character based on their family. But are Pearl Ann and her mom really all that similar?

    Ned's shoulders stiffened. It was this whole notion of lineage and background that had sent him back into the mines for a second shift. (16.19)

    Mrs. Larkin's concern with bloodlines really gets Ned's goat. Especially since her buddies at the mine use the same thing—Ned's unknown background—as an excuse to force the poor guy to work a double shift. But isn't there more to a person than genetics? Moon Over Manifest certainly seems to think so.

    I wondered what Gideon was doing right then. […] On a good day, a man eating at the counter might buy him a sandwich and a cup of coffee. It always helped to have a little girl in tow. He needed me. (18.16)

    Finn used Jinx in his cons, and now Jinx uses Abilene to get sympathy and free handouts. He doesn't mean to, but it's the only life he knows. What do you think: is that an okay excuse?

    Jump on, jump on, jump on, the boxcars taunted. I reached out my hand. Reaching for the only home I'd ever known. Reaching for Gideon. Then the sound died down and the train moved on. (20.41)

    Whew. We can't help but feel bad for Abilene. Being with her dad is all she's ever known, and not she's totally separated from him.

    The Hungarian woman plunked her shot glass down onto the bar top and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "Do you forget where you come from?" She stared them down. "What about the others who depend on us? Those who are left behind?" (22.59)

    At the town meeting at Shady's place, Miss Sadie's words really hit home. It sounds like immigrants feel it's their duty to succeed in America because their family back in Europe sacrificed to send them there. Do you agree?

    "At Ellis Island, the inspector asks my friend Milo, 'What is your last name?'

    'Zoutsaghianopoulos,' he says. The inspector asks him if he wants to change it to make it easier to pronounce. My friend gives this much thought. After all, this is his family name." (25.16)

    Tons of people changed the spelling of their last names when they immigrated to America. It says a lot about how willing they were to truly start over, to change something so fundamental to their family. Would you be willing to change your name?

    It was like putting together a big family tree. (34.13)

    As Abilene reads through the entries to the memory contest, she recognizes many names from Miss Sadie's story and feels like she already knows these people. For this young lady, knowing someone's past makes them feel like family.

    "I'm not going with you, Finn. These folks are my family now." (36.51)

    When Finn reappears and tries to guilt Jinx into coming back out on the road with him, Jinx stands his ground. He's finally found a home in Manifest. And that's where his real family is.

  • Identity

    "Well, I'm Abilene. I'm twelve years old and a hard worker," I said, like I had a hundred other times in as many towns. (3.14)

    When Abilene introduces herself to Shady, it's clear that she's confident in her identity. It's not until later that she starts feeling unsure of herself.

    Mind you, I don't really say y'all, but it's usually best to try to sound a bit like the folks whose town you're moving into. (3.15)

    Abilene also has the ability to change her outer identity to fit each town she visits. But she's still sure of who she is; she lets us know in no uncertain terms that the real Abilene doesn't talk like that. And the way y'all talk is important to her.

    "Y'all are the ones hoping to get noticed by the teacher or your parents for doing a good deed to the new girl. Well, I don't need no corpus works of mercy," I said, slipping into my new-girl-in-town way of talking. (6.37)

    When Lettie and Ruthanne first try to make friends with Abilene, she doesn't take it too well. It's majorly important to her to keep her pride intact and stay aloof from these girls, hiding her real self.

    "Seems like a person should know where he was born. Where he's from and who his people are." (9.48)

    When Ned tells Jinx he doesn't know what his family background is, we see how much it really bugs him. Does knowing where you were born make a difference in how you see yourself? Should it? Why or why not? How would Ned be different if he knew who his mom was?

    Maybe the world wasn't made of universals that could be summed up in neat little packages. Maybe there were just people. People who were tired and hurt and lonely and kind in their own way and their own time. (17.84)

    Abilene's finally growing up, and that means thinking about tough stuff like this. But it takes Abilene a while to get to this point. Her universals may have helped her understand the world she lived in, but hearing Miss Sadie's story made her see that things are more complicated than they seem at first.

    "This town left its imprint on your daddy, probably more than even he knows." (20.15)

    When Hattie Mae mentions this to Abilene, she doesn't know that Jinx is her dad. After all, Jinx has spent his whole life running away. Why is that?

    And there was Jinx. I felt like I understood this boy who had lived life from one place to the next. (23.7)

    Abilene feels a major connection to Jinx, even before she realizes he's her dad. After all, who else in town could understand a life like the one she has?

    I was all middle. I'd always been between the last place and the next. (27.37)

    Abilene feels this way—like she doesn't have a solid footing in any one place—but she does know where she came from, doesn't she? She knows her dad, and that places her square in the Tucker clan.

    He thought he was still a jinx and, one way or another, my life could not be good with him. (39.27)

    Abilene realizes that Finn's words are still stuck in her dad's head, and that's why he sent Abilene to Manifest. Why is Gideon's identity so wrapped up in his past? Why can't he get past it?

    Where did I belong? Where was home? (39.36)

    Without her dad, Abilene feels homeless. But it seems like Abilene had to lose her dad in order to find her own identity—and possibly his, too.

  • Memory and the Past

    "Oh, my heavens. How'd you get ahold of that piece of antiquity?" (3.37)

    Hattie Mae thinks it's funny that Abilene has an old column of hers, but that is one powerful piece of paper. After all, Gideon was the one who wrapped the old newspaper around the compass to keep it safe, and what is this whole story if not a search for her Gideon's past?

    What kind of purveyor of the future could only tell stories from the past? (10.5)

    Abilene isn't quite convinced about Miss Sadie's magical abilities. And how about this: do the citizens of Manifest shun Miss Sadie because she's a fortune-teller or because she holds memories that the town would rather forget?

    "It is time to reveal secrets of future and past." (9.42)

    Miss Sadie seems to know that the story she's about to tell Abilene will change the future of their town. Does revealing a secret from the past really affect the future? How does it affect Abilene? And how does it affect Manifest?

    Memories were like sunshine. They warmed you up and left a pleasant glow, but you couldn't hold them. (11.6)

    Abilene can't remember whether or not her dad had said he'd come back for her. Why is it so hard for her to grasp onto this memory? Does she have trouble with other memories, too?

    As much as I had a need to hear her story, she had a need to tell it. It was as if the story was the only balm that provided any comfort. (18.29)

    Abilene realizes that Miss Sadie's story is helping them both. The worsening infection on Miss Sadie's leg affects her story-telling, but the story seems to make the pain better.

    "If a person lived and breathed in a place, shouldn't he have left some kind of mark?" (20.12)

    Abilene can't understand why there doesn't seem to be any trace of her dad anywhere in Manifest. The only actual, literal mark that Gideon left there was his name, written on the checkout card in Moby-Dick. Has Gideon successfully escaped his past? If so, what will happen when he has to face it again?

    Those in the room who had remained unnamed looked into their own pasts—their own stories of coming to America. (22.63)

    At Shady's town meeting, Miss Sadie reminds the immigrants of their histories. What does it take to get people from such different backgrounds—but who share such similar pasts—to come together as a community? How is it that individual memories help bring people together in Manifest?

    That was when I knew I needed a break from looking at the past. (23.1)

    Abilene knows when to take a mental health break from all the memories. Miss Sadie, on the other hand, can never stop thinking about it, and that affects how she relates to other people in town.

    After all this time of working at her house, there was a comfort in knowing that I was connected to her stories. (23.6)

    Abilene loves having the little mementos mentioned in Miss Sadie's stories. Hearing someone else's memories about something you weren't involved in can still affect you—and concrete reminders make them seem even more alive.

    It was as if these memories were contained in a painful wound that had been nursed and ignored in equal measure. (27.32)

    Check out our "Symbols" section for even more, but Miss Sadie's leg wound symbolizes the pain her memories are causing her. How do you think Abilene's leg infection is connected to all this?

  • Community

    "We'd better get home and tell our mamas that we didn't catch any frogs and that Mrs. Clayton could use some tending to." (14.49)

    When the girls see Sister Redempta come out from delivering the new Clayton baby, they jump right into action. Even before the town of Manifest starts its healing process, its residents are willing to help each other in times of real need.

    There had never been a town meeting before. Normally, each fraternal order would gather in their own hall and discuss their own business. (22.20)

    Was it only the language barrier that kept the 1918 citizens of Manifest apart? Or something more?

    But with the Hungarian woman's words, they suddenly recognized something in each other. They shared the same blood. Immigrant blood. (22.64)

    Miss Sadie's remarks at Shady's town meeting wake the townspeople up. What traits do you think all these immigrants have in common? We're guessing she's not talking about actual blood here…

    There was a solidarity among the people in Shady's bar that night, as one by one they emerged from their trenches and ventured into no-man's-land. (22.112)

    As they leave from the very first town gathering, the town residents finally feel connected. It's pretty impressive, actually: with World War I raging in Europe, all these nationalities are still able to live together peacefully in Manifest.

    "Amen," they said in unison, these citizens of the world, and they held their breath as the many and varied ingredients that had been simmered and stewed, distilled and chilled, were combined to make something new. Something greater than the sum of its parts. (25.76)

    The miracle elixir is being compared to the townspeople here. What do you make of this metaphor?

    Everyone owned a piece of this town's history. (27.34)

    With all the memories Abilene reads through for her contest, she realizes that it's not just Miss Sadie that knows stuff about Manifest's past. Everyone has something to contribute to the story of Manifest. Do you think's hard for an outsider like Abilene to ever really become part of a place where people "own pieces" of its history?

    Well, the folks in Manifest weren't really Friends; they were more like acquaintances. (27.19)

    Kind of tragic that the residents of Manifest go back to their distant, separate ways, don't you think?

    He had been identified as a stranger and felt his sense of belonging slipping away. (29.35)

    Poor Jinx. The townspeople are as quick to turn on him when his plan goes wrong as they are to embrace him when it helps.

    And in some way I had been allowed into their world. And they had welcomed me. (37.5)

    Abilene feels like she was a part of Miss Sadie's stories—not just a passive listener. We'd have to agree. She's so involved in the stories that she regards the characters as her friends, and her being there is what makes the story necessary to begin with.

    The town of Manifest had loved Ned Gillen. And now the town of Manifest was crushed under the weight of that love. (38.34)

    When Ned was killed in action, the town fell back into its old ways. Ironic, huh? That the death of the boy with no background is what causes the town to fall apart?

  • Isolation

    For the first time I could recall, I was alone. (2.3)

    Gulp. Do you remember the first time you were ever alone? And come to think of it, is Abilene talking about being alone physically or emotionally? Either way, we'd say that her time alone helps her grow up. (Though we'd probably recommend some parental supervision along the way.)

    I'd been in and out of schools before, but I'd always been in the protective shade of my daddy. Here I was alone and exposed to the heat and clamor of the day. (4.10)

    Abilene's dad couldn't go with her to school, even if he was in the same town—but it's different this time. Knowing that her dad isn't around totally changes the way she feels. It's like everything is a little less safe.

    Maybe it was a lonely immigrant with no family. Or it could be a drifter who had come through town and they'd buried him where he dropped dead. (15.1)

    What do you think about the tradition of burying family members next to each other? Why do you think this is important to many people?

    "To see Ned get on the train and leave Manifest and the people who love him. Jinx thinks it is his fault." (18.23)

    Jinx is convinced that he's the reason Ned has joined the army. Why? Because he helped Ned make the money he used to get in. This act leaves both Ned and Jinx feeling alone: Ned voluntarily and Jinx because his best friend is heading off. As it turns out, for good.

    "Isn't that what people do when things get tough? They move on to the next town and leave all their troubles behind? And everyone they care about?" (18.27)

    Hmmm. Is that what you do when you have a bad day? If so, we sure hope you keep a suitcase handy. Why do you think Gideon keeps running from the bad stuff in life? What does the continuous isolation provide for him?

    I kept my eyes closed, trying to recall the sound and movement of train on track that could make you feel lonely sometimes and peaceful at others. (20.35)

    Did that sound ever make Abilene feel lonely before her dad sent her away? Does it ever make her feel peaceful now?

    Even in church, folks kept to their own. Among the Catholics, the Austrians went to Mass at eight o'clock, Italians at nine o'clock, and Irish at ten o'clock. Services were divided up similarly among the Lutherans and Methodists. (22.21)

    Not even religion can bring people together in Manifest. Instead, everything is divided neatly by nationality and denomination. Where else do we see this kind of division in the town?

    Places where people who have no home, no money, no hope gather together of an evening to share a fire and maybe some beans and coffee. […] Where, for a time, they might not feel quite so alone. (33.6)

    Abilene sure likes hanging out with the homeless people by the train tracks. And so does Shady, as we later find out. Do they feel the same sense of loneliness that the homeless people do?

    "Who would dare think the outcast and abandoned can find a home? […] 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." (35.12)

    Miss Sadie is understandably bitter. So far, nothing in her life has really worked out the way she wanted. Does she ever find a true home in Manifest?

    But if Jinx was gone, then he couldn't be Gideon. And that meant I'd lost Gideon all over again. I was alone again. (37.2)

    Miss Sadie's story makes Abilene think Jinx has died, and she's totally horrified. She's been convinced this whole time that Jinx is Gideon, so when Jinx dies (spoiler alert: he's not actually dead), she feels like a piece of her dad has died, too. Just one question: why on earth does Miss Sadie do this to her?!

  • Prejudice

    "They call themselves the Ku Klux Klan and they hate pretty much everyone who isn't like them. If you have the wrong color, religion, or birthplace, they don't like you. Around here it's mostly foreigners they hate." (9.32)

    When he and Jinx stumble across a KKK rally, Ned explains who the people in the white hoods and robes are. Want to know more about the KKK and their nasty ways? has plenty to tell you.

    I'd heard of really bad things Klan folks did to Negroes. Mean, hateful, deadly things. I didn't know they were hateful toward white folks too. (12.19)

    Devlin and Burton don't feel the need to hide their identities at the Klan rally. What does that tell you about them? Are they worse than the hooded Klan members, or is hate hate and that's that?

    Every German or Austrian in the United States, unless known by years of association to be absolutely loyal, should be treated as a potential spy. (13.20)

    Get this: this passage was an actual warning from the U.S. government back in the day. Imagine how today's society would react to an announcement like this. Yowza.

    "It's pretty clear that your mother cares about where a person is from," Ned said. (16.25)

    Is Mrs. Larkin prejudiced? What exactly is she prejudiced against?

    The unfortunate explosion of firewords in the water tower—and subsequent dousing of the president and the newly signed victory quilt—was a somewhat surprising turn of events. While shock among the onlookers was widespread, the range of glee and dismay was split mostly among party lines. Although, it seemed the ruffling of feathers at the president's "pond jumpers" comment (referring to our foreign-born citizens who crossed the ocean) permeated throughout. (16.124)

    That's right: even the president of the U.S. is prejudiced. He had just been soaked by the exploding water tower, sure, but that's no excuse.

    The men in their white hooded robes were nowhere to be found, but there in front of the small building stood a large cross set ablaze. (19.75)

    The Manifest KKK was out to scare the German townspeople. What's the purpose of burning crosses in front of people's homes or businesses? Is this an intimidation tactic or a threat?

    It is unclear if the motive was the Germans' nationality or their attempt to organize at the mine. (19.76)

    So everyone knows that the mine bosses were involved in the cross burning. And yet, no one says anything to them. Why not?

    As she goes farther west into America, she draws attention. People frown at her thick accent. They raise their eyebrows at her dark skin. (41.14)

    Poor Miss Sadie. Why does it get worse the farther west she goes? If you do a little research into the U.S. in 1918, you might get your answer.

    But they do not understand. She is shunned and called a Gypsy and a fortune-teller. She asks about a boy and they hold their children behind them. (41.14)

    In spite of the discrimination, Miss Sadie keeps searching. That tells you a lot about her—and about the people she meets.

    If she reveals herself as his mother, she will bring shame on him. They will shun him the way she has been shunned. (41.16)

    Miss Sadie's decision could be considered the ultimate in motherly love… or is it just cowardice? Did she make the right decision to keep to herself, or should she have revealed herself to Ned?

  • Society and Class

    "Around here, whoever owns the mine pretty much owns the town. Everybody has to come crawling to him, his mine, his company store. And believe me, with his wages and his prices, he makes sure you stay on your knees." (9.36)

    Ugh. Talk about downtrodden. Devin is able to really keep these people low on the totem poll. Why do you think they haven't fought back yet?

    "That's not fair," Jinx said. "There's lots of folks who could fill in for Weintraub. Why does he want you so bad?"

    "I've beaten Devlin's son too many times at track meets."

    "So what? His son has everything else going for him. Money, privilege, family name."

    "Yeah, and that kind of person doesn't like to get beat by a person of questionable background." Ned's voice shook with emotion. (13.37-40)

    Do you think that Arthur Devlin actually tells his son to be horrible to Ned, or has Lance just learned the behavior by watching his dad?

    I had a hard time imagining the two in the same town, let alone in the same room in the Divining Parlor. (20.25)

    Hmmm. A nun is almost the only person in town who is friends with Miss Sadie. Is it her religion? The fact that she's a teacher? The fact that she's a midwife? Or something totally different?

    On occasion there might be an awkward encounter in the mercantile or the hardware store, in which members of one nationality might exchange a halted word of greeting with those of another. (22.20)

    Are the different nationalities in Manifest all prejudiced against each other, or do they consider themselves equals who just don't associate with each other? How can you tell?

    Some were regulars, unbeknownst to their wives, while others would normally sooner be caught dead than set foot across his threshold. (22.31)

    What type of person would go to a saloon in a place where alcohol was illegal? Which townspeople do you think avoided it, and why? Do we get to know the characters of Moon Over Manifest well enough to know?

    So anyone with means, including Burton, Devlin, and their lot, used the opportunity to take a holiday—elsewhere. (25.5)

    Finally, the townspeople use the class divisions in their town to their advantage when they pretend to get sick. We wonder who came up with this part of the plan…

    The music grew louder, and as I rounded the bend near the train tracks, I felt the warmth radiating from the bonfire, saw the glow on the rough and ragged faces. I knew exactly where I was. People living on the road called it The Jungle. (33.5)

    What are the different classes in Manifest society? You've got the mine owners; the people like Mrs. Larkin, the judge, and the sheriff; the miners and shopkeepers; and the homeless vagabonds who pass through. Was there one upper class and one lower class, or was it more complicated than that?

    "For not being able to live up to what we'd convinced ourselves of. That there was something special about Manifest. That we could overcome our past and start over." (39.13)

    Miss Sadie sums up the shame of Manifest. What kept them from being able to start over? Did they ever get a second chance?