Study Guide

Moon Over Manifest Themes

  • Family

    It seems like half the town of Manifest has some tragic family issue. Miss Sadie's separation from Ned; Ned not knowing where he comes from; Jinx's uncle's general horribleness; all the immigrants' families left behind in Europe; and what about Abilene and her dad, separated indefinitely? Mrs. Larkin is one of the rare ones whose family has lived in Manifest for generations—and she makes sure everybody knows it. But do people have to be related to be a real family in Moon Over Manifest? Not exactly. Over the course of the book, the entire community seems to come together as a family. Plus, we get bonus family discoveries—and that can never hurt.

    Questions About Family

    1. Who is a more loving mother: Miss Sadie or Mrs. Larkin? Why?
    2. What would have happened if Miss Sadie had told Ned she was his mom right before he left for war? Would that have changed anything?
    3. Why do you think Shady has no family? Does that influence his actions?

    Chew on This

    If Miss Sadie had told Ned the truth, he would have been happier and would have never gone to war.

    Your friends say more about you than your family. Look at Mrs. Larkin for proof.

  • Identity

    How is your identity determined? Hopefully not by your ID card. Is it based on where you live? What you do? What you look like? The people of Manifest at first base their identities on where they come from. Everyone keeps to their own people or holds on to their pasts. But with Jinx's help, they begin to see their new identity as citizens of Manifest. However it's determined, both stories in Moon Over Manifest—Abilene's and Miss Sadie's—are driven by characters looking for their identities. And it's only when they find them that they can finally be happy with themselves.

    Questions About Identity

    1. Are there any characters in Moon Over Manifest who are certain about their identities?
    2. Does it work out better for characters in the story to create a new identity for themselves, or try to perfect their old ones?
    3. In Moon Over Manifest, is it bad to have a fake public identity and a true private one? Which characters would you say have that?

    Chew on This

    Abilene says she's "all middle," but this applies to the entire town of Manifest, too.

    Sister Redempta must have had to adapt her identity to be able to work closely with a fortune-teller.

  • Memory and the Past

    Oh, boy. You do not want to mention anything about the past in Manifest. Abilene asks a simple question about a town fair, and the place goes silent. What's up with that? Well, the town's memories are so painful that no one wants to relive them. But sometimes, that's the only way to heal. Miss Sadie seems to be the only one in Moon Over Manifest who's willing to remember—and to share her memories with Abilene. And it's only once she does this, that she and the entire town town can really start living again.

    Questions About Memory and the Past

    1. How do memories of 1918 affect Shady? How do they affect the rest of the town?
    2. Why does Jinx only share superficial memories of Manifest with Abilene when she's growing up? Why not give her the deets?
    3. Is the past repeating itself with Abilene's arrival?

    Chew on This

    The events of 1918 were more important to Manifest than those of 1936.

    The events of 1936 are more important to Manifest than those of 1918.

  • Community

    So what do you think: was Manifest a real community before Jinx got there? Our vote: no. There were so many little cliques and groups. We're talking the rich guys, the miners, the poorer people, and even the lone fortune-teller. It took a crisis—and a lot of con expertise from Jinx—to get this crowd working together. So why is community such an important thing in Moon Over Manifest? Well, think about it: this town has such a rich history, and in order to know it fully, the residents will need to come together to provide all the pieces. Lucky for us, those Tucker folks sure know how to make things happen.

    Questions About Community

    1. What does it take to make a community in Manifest? Why is everyone so set on keeping to themselves at first? And why does it take an outsider to bring the town together?
    2. What is unique about Manifest's community? What makes it different from other towns?
    3. Do the micro-communities remain intact once the whole town is all on the same page again?

    Chew on This

    If Devlin hadn't been so awful, Manifest would never have come together like they did.

    If Manifest residents had all spoken the same language, they wouldn't have been so divided.

  • Isolation

    Being alone isn't always a bad thing. In Moon Over Manifest, it's actually good that Abilene has some time away from her dad to do some growing up, and Jinx sure as heck needed to get away from Finn, right? The people of Manifest seem to be content in their isolation, too, keeping to themselves in order to avoid feeling any more pain. But as far as we can tell, isolation causes more bad than good in this book. It's definitely okay to be on your own, but you always need someone—or many someones—to have your back.

    Questions About Isolation

    1. Would Shady be a different person if he had a wife and kids? Is he an isolated character because he doesn't have a family?
    2. Would Miss Sadie have been so dedicated to finding her son if she had had a friend in America?
    3. Was Finn so mean because he was alone for so long? Or was there something else going on there?

    Chew on This

    Being isolated can totally corrupt a person—think about Finn.

    Isolation can bring out the best in a person—think about Shady.

  • Prejudice

    We all know how bad prejudice is, but it's amazing to see the depths of hate that some people sink to in Moon Over Manifest: shunning people, calling them names, and even threatening their lives and property. And the fact that the citizens of Manifest keep to their own little groups makes it that much easier for them to treat the people they consider to be outsiders badly. We can see how a community coming together is more than just nice—in Manifest, it's necessary to stop the cruelty.

    Questions About Prejudice

    1. If Devlin weren't the boss, would he have been willing to take off his KKK hood?
    2. There were a lot of people at that KKK rally in the woods. Who else from the town do you think might have been there?
    3. Would Devlin really have hurt any one of his workers?
    4. World War II started just a few years after Abilene's summer in Manifest. Do we see any indications of what's to come?

    Chew on This

    Mrs. Larkin doesn't look down on Miss Sadie because she's a fortune-teller—it's because she's new in town.

    Everyone in Manifest is at least a little prejudiced toward someone else.

  • Society and Class

    It's crazy how much power the mine owners have in Moon Over Manifest, don't you think? We can't imagine someone "owning" a town like that today. (Though we hear it's possible.) In Manifest, the class of society you were in determines pretty much everything about your life: what you do all day, how much food your family gets to eat, how other people treat you, whether you have any hope for the future… the list goes on. And how did these people find themselves in a certain class? Mostly the luck of the draw: either you were born into a rich family with roots in Manifest or not. And during the Great Depression, upward mobility was not all the rage.

    Questions About Society and Class

    1. Why would you go to work for someone who only pays you in vouchers for their store? What was going on during this time period in history that allowed for that to happen?
    2. Do you think the society shown in Manifest is historically authentic?
    3. What would happen in a town like Manifest today? How would things be different?

    Chew on This

    If Devlin were alive today, he'd be the CEO of a financial company on Wall Street.

    People today are still shunned just as badly as Miss Sadie.