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This Tender Land: Book summary and reviews of This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land

A Novel

by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger X
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
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  • Published Sep 2019
    464 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

For fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing, a magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O'Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent's wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Though overly sentimental prose ("With every turn of the river, we were changing, becoming different people, and for the first time I understood that the journey we were on wasn't about getting to St. Louis") weakens the story's impact, Krueger's enjoyable riff on The Odyssey will satisfy fans of American heartland epics." - Publishers Weekly

This information about This Tender Land was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

a wonderfully uplifting read.
“Lying on my blanket beside Albert, I was happy to have him for a brother, though I had no intention of telling him so. I didn’t always understand him, and I knew that, more often than not, I was a bafflement to him as well, but the heart isn’t the logical organ of the body, and I loved my brother deeply and fell asleep in the warmth of his company.”

This Tender Land is the third stand-alone novel by award-winning, best-selling American author, William Kent Krueger. It’s 1932, and twelve-year-old Odie O’Banion, his older brother, Albert, his Sioux friend, Moses Washington and Little Emmy Frost are paddling a canoe down the Gilead River, heading towards the Mississippi. They’re on the run from the police, wanted for theft, kidnapping and murder.

The managers of their erstwhile “home”, the Lincoln Indian Training School, are also on their trail, and that’s a place they never want to see again, so they are doing their best to keep a low profile. Eventually they settle on St Louis as their destination, knowing it will take some time from Minnesota.

Why they are in flight, what and whom they encounter on the journey, and what happens at its end, is what fills this superb coming-of-age/adventure tale. They endure forced labour and corporal punishment, captivity and several narrow escapes. A still is built, a man is shot, a tornado devastates, a snake-bite is suffered, and Krueger demonstrates that dumpster-diving is no new phenomenon.

Group members join a Christian healing crusade, visit shanty towns, work in a restaurant, hop a freight train, and are on the receiving end of both the heartlessness and the kindness of strangers. Their experiences alter their beliefs in God, and teach them about love, trust, charity and loyalty.

“I did want to believe that God was my shepherd and that somehow he was leading me through this dark valley of Lincoln School and I shouldn’t be afraid… But the truth I saw every day was that we were on our own and our safety depended not on God but on ourselves and on helping one another.”

Krueger takes the reader to a time in the not-too-distant past when children had virtually no rights, especially if, as in this case, they were orphans or Native American children forcibly removed from their parents. While there were, of course, many genuinely good people amongst those in a guardianship role, a significant number of these children were at the mercy of unscrupulous adults who revelled in cruelty and to whom kindness was a foreign concept.

Krueger gives the reader a relatable cast of characters who are humanly flawed, neither wholly good nor evil, and endows some with insightful observations and wise words: “Albert, who was four years older and a whole lot wiser, told me that people are most afraid of things they don’t understand, and if something frightened you, you should get closer to it. That didn’t mean it wouldn’t still be an awful thing, but the awful you knew was easier to handle than the awful you imagined.” Subtly filled with fascinating historical detail, this is a wonderfully uplifting read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Australia.

Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews

Marvelous
The Lincoln School, an orphanage with horrible caregivers who beat the children and subjected them to even worse daily working conditions, is where we meet Odie, Albert, Mose, and then Emmy.

The three friends had to get away, and they had their chance one night.

We follow them as they escape with Emmy who didn't originally live at the school and move farther and farther away from Lincoln School and the horrors they had endured.

Following the three friends and Emmy down the Mississippi river and meeting the folks along the River was mesmerizing.

The trip down the river also seemed dangerous but was amazing how the friends always had another friend/stranger helping out.

THIS TENDER LAND's lush writing had me not wanting to stop reading because I didn’t want to miss their adventures, and I didn't want the book to end.

Mr. Krueger's writing pulls you in with his descriptions, lovable characters, and story line.

What a marvelous, master story teller Mr. Krueger is. His book even incorporated stories told by the characters within the book.

Mr. Krueger’s magic is indeed evident in THIS TENDER LAND and is a book that needs to be read by every book club and everyone who loves becoming engrossed in the lives of the characters in a book and an era.

This book is an absorbing tale of love, loss, and endurance and will fill your heart with the warmth that comes with feeling needed, helpful, and wanted.

You just have to read this book to understand its beauty and excellence.

This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley.

techeditor

As YA book, this is excellent
This is the first person account of “the four vagabonds,” told by 12-year-old harmonica-playing, storytelling Odie. It is 1932, in the midst of the Depression, and Odie, his older brother, Albert, their Indian friend, Mose, and six-year-old Emmy are traveling by canoe to what Odie hopes is home in St. Louis. All four are orphans who had been living in unacceptable circumstances at an Indian boarding school in Minnesota with its vicious superintendent. The life they are leaving is based on what really did go on at many Indian boarding schools.

Yes, the four are trying to escape their present environment, but the three boys are also running from the law. It is mistakenly believed that they have kidnapped Emmy.

They are paddling their canoe down rivers to their destination, often with no food. Along the way they meet people both good and bad.

Although Odie is angry with God, one person he meets who becomes his friend is a woman of God who heads religious crusades. She has the gift of being able to see someone's past. As time goes on, she recognizes that Emmy also has a gift, being able to see someone's future and sometimes being able to alter it slightly.

Of course, they meet others, too, such as a horrible man who forces them at gunpoint to work on his failing farm. They also meet many families living in "Hoovervilles," groups of people living in makeshift tents or shacks, and befriend some of them. The four vagabonds find friends to help them get where they're headed and foes trying to find them.

Although the depicted treatment of Indians and Indian boarding schools is accurate, I found other parts of this story too hard to believe. And those parts, for me, made this book seem young adultish, not meant to be questioned by an adult. As a YA book, though, this is excellent.

Jersey Girl

Meh
Interesting, entertaining, not great.

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Author Information

William Kent Krueger Author Biography

Photo: Paul Dinndorf

William Kent Krueger is the award-winning author of a dozen Cork O'Connor novels, including Northwest Angle and Trickster's Point, as well as the novel Ordinary Grace. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family.

Link to William Kent Krueger's Website

Name Pronunciation
William Kent Krueger: kru-ger

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