Abilene is feeling lonely. Her mama is long gone, her father sent her off to live with an old friend in his hometown for a few months while he works on the railroad. This puts Abilene alone in Manifest, Kansas, a worn-out old town that was suffering even before the Great Depression hit. It looks like it's going to be boring summer...that is, until Abilene discovers a hidden cigar box full of 18-year-old mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on a real-life spy hunt. In the process, with the help of a so-called diviner named Miss Sadie, Abilene digs into the Manifest's past--which, as she comes to find out, brings her closer to understanding her father's childhood and how it shaped the person he grew up to be.
This book sort of reminds me of Walk Two Moons, Savvy, and A Long Way from Chicago. Those titles cover a variety of settings and situations, but they all have a similar tone and just give me the warm fuzzies. Even when bad things are happening, you feel the love between the characters. I also enjoyed the mysterious aspect and the way that the two stories--what happened in Manifest in 1918, and what's happening in the present--weave together. Abilene is a totally charming little girl, and her curiosity reminded me of myself when I was young (but, admittedly, I think I was more annoying and less charming about it!). There are a few interesting twists at the end, too. In one word: fantastic!