This Tender Land

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Way back in 2013, our book club chose to read Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. We all loved it, though I had never heard of his previous books. Ordinary Grace was a huge hit...but where was his next book? Usually authors capitalize on the buzz and pump out the next book quickly (and I find often, not nearly as good of a book). My oh my, I am so glad Krueger took his time with This Tender Land as it is well worth the wait. Set in Minnesota during the Great Depression, the story begins in a reformatory school for native children. Some were orphaned, some taken from their Native families to be 'retrained.' It is a terrible place, full of abuse and hate, run by the Brickman couple who are sufficiently evil bad buys to root against. When a chance arises to flee, four heroic children do just that. Each child has their own part in Odie's story: Albert, his brother and a mechanical genius; Mose, the Sioux boy whose tongue was cut out as a toddler, looking for his identity; Emmy, the little girl whose 'fits' foretell the future; and Odysseus (ie. Odie) whose search for home leads them all on their wild odyssey down the river. Yep, they run into a cyclops character, a siren who sings like the angels, and many other obstacles along the way. I became so enmeshed in these children's trials and tribulations that I could not put this book down. This book should be another huge hit for this author. Thanks to Net Galley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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A child running away from something is not a new topic, but William Kent Krueger’s “This Tender Land” just might be the best I’ve read, my apologies to Mark Twain.  The great depression, cruel treatment of Native American and other orphaned children, four forsaken children with dreams of a better life, and a relentless and revealing journey form the basis for a novel I found impressive.

An orphan boy, Odie O’Banion, finds himself in constant conflict with the “witch” superintendent of a school for orphans.  Forced to flee, he, his brother, Albert, their friend Mose, and a heartbroken little girl, Emmy, take to a canoe to travel to Saint Louis via the Mississippi River looking for comfort and peace.  Over the course of a summer, they find themselves with others who are wandering, including impoverished farmers, faith healers, displaced families, lost souls, and ruffians who prey on the unfortunate.

There is a bond between the four of them that seems unbreakable, but as events unfold that affect each of them differently, the relationship unravels in heartbreaking ways that seem realistic and the inevitable product of life’s cruelty.  Finally, on his own, Odie uses his ingenuity and wiles to reach Saint Louis where he discovers some long held secrets about his own life that greatly alter his own destiny.

Krueger is the talented writer of many books.  “This Tender Land” is a magnificent example of his gifted writing that captures his reader in a mesmerizing tale.  The characterizations are deftly crafted.  The visuals of depressed countryside and ruined settlements are heart wrenching, dialogue flows in a realistic tone, and the thoughts, desires, and motivations of tortured souls ring true.

I can guarantee you will be thrilled at the experience of reading this novel.  The heartland of American has been realistically recreated.  The travails of a world of poverty and greed have been put forth in beautiful prose.  You must not miss this magnificent work.
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A beautiful, moving and wonderful book, This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger held me spellbound from the beginning to the very last page. Set during the Great Depression, the book opens in the Lincoln School in 1932 Minnesota. The residential school houses mostly Native American children who have been forcibly separated from their families, and forbidden to use their own languages or follow their own customs. Into the mix are added brothers Odie and Albert O'Bannion, sons of an itenerant grifter . When Odie's high spirits get him into trouble, the brothers, along with their friend Mose and Emmy, the newly orphaned daughter of a kind local woman decide to steal a canoe and make a break for it by sailing down the Mississippi. Odie and Albert hope to find their Aunt, but with only childhood memories of what her house and neighborhood look like, finding her in St Louis will be a challenge. Along the way the group make friends and encounter foes as their journey becomes both a spiritual and physical challenge. 
The prose throughout the book is nothing short of stunning, every word is carefully chosen and one does not have to read the author's note at the end of the book to know that this has been a real labour of love for him. Odie and his companions have become firm favourites , each is special but it is the bond between them and the strength of their friendship that makes the book truly special. It is a wonderful blend of a coming of age story and  an epic adventure, and so much more besides. The author has done a truly wonderful job of bringing the book's setting to life, and the attention he lavishes on all the supporting characters more than pays off to make this one of the most special and memorable books I have read in a long time,  one that has already become a favourite to be revisited time and time again. 
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
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This Tender Land tells the story of four orphans in Minnesota during the Great Depression, escaping mistreatment at an "Indian boys' school" and journeying down the Mississippi River in search of a place to call home.
Pursued by the mean-spirited owners of the school, encountering danger at every turn, trying to survive in a time where everything was scarce - it makes for a compelling read. The plotline itself is enough to hold together a decent story, but This Tender Land is so much more than that. 
Peopled with a cast of wonderfully imperfect, unique characters; based in a part of the country so richly described you can almost smell it; pondering deep themes of friendship and family and belief; touching on historical moments including unspeakable treatment of Native American people - there's just so much depth to this novel.
It's so very well-written that it will keep you utterly absorbed for almost 500 pages and the end will feel like it's come too soon.
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Quite simply, I don't have any words to describe what I experienced reading this book.

This Tender Land is an odyssey, lovingly written & full of care. In a nutshell: Our main character, Odie, lives in an Indian Training School in the year 1932 with his brother Albert. Times are hard in these schools, as we all know now, and life is rough to Odie. Through circumstances out of their control, Odie and Albert run away with two other friends to find a long-lost aunt and, possibly, home.

I'll spare you the little details, because here's what this book is really about: It's about finding yourself, and even when the world is not what you expect, it's about finding your way. This story is large and about much more than the physical journey that Odie and his friends undertake.. our characters are constantly looking for themselves whether it's how they fit into their family history, how they fit into their culture, and how they personally relate to God.

In a book like this, it's true that it's more about the journey than the destination. But I can say this... From before Odie leaves on his journey, during his journey, and finally after he's reached his destination, he's constantly changing and growing. This book is about so much more than the sum of its parts; it's about how everything interconnects. And how we can find hope in the way that life deals us our circumstances.

The characters... omg, I feel like crying when I think about Odie & his friends, and how they eventually find happiness. And you don't come to care for just the main characters, every person they meet on their odyssey feels real, human, and before you know it, your heart is going out to each of them & their situations. Hell, I even feel like crying just thinking about One-Eyed Jack's personal journey. (If you've read this book, you know exactly why!)

In all fairness, I shouldn't call this ramble a review. I should say this is a call for help, because I have zero idea what I'm gonna do with my life after finishing this. It's rare to find a book that sticks with you and makes you feel glad to be alive. Krueger has written such a big-hearted story that I absolutely urge everyone to pick it up. Go on Odie's journey and let it carry you. I promise it'll be the best journey you go on for the next little while.
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All the stars!! A coming-of-age epic adventure taking place during the Great Depression. Four orphans runaway from their school and travel along the river in a canoe (put me in mind of Huckleberry Finn) bound for St Louis. I love this story and can’t recommend it enough!


Thank you to Atria via NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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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 the 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.  5/5

This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley.
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This book contains a lot of gratuitous child abuse. It was very distracting from the story. I did not enjoy it at all. I do appreciate the ARC from NetGalley.
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The Odyssey meets Huck Finn in this endearing novel that is bittersweet and lovely. Four young "vagabonds" flee their abusive caregivers at school and set off in a canoe bound for St. Louis. Odie, older brother Albert, Emmy, and Mose must survive the wilderness as well as the odd and eccentric characters they meet along the way. Add to the mix a revival show and Sister Eve with her band of healers. There are both laughter and tears in this poignant tale of survival and growth as the youngsters continue their journey, never giving up hope they will find redemption in the end. And yes, they find answers and yes, the end may leave you breathless...but you will never forget this journey or these marvelous characters. I can't wait to read more of Krueger; he is magnificent!
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Read if you like: coming-of-age stories, Depression-era fiction, stories about runaways, adventure stories 

Caveat: Mentions of child abuse (specifically physical, sexual abuse is implied)

You can read the synopsis, so I won't recap it. 

THIS TENDER LAND has already been compared to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which I get. This is definitely a sweeping adventure tale featuring a young preteen. However--I kept thinking of Stand by Me when I was reading it. There's danger, surprises, and lots of scrapes (and a murder or two)--but also a great sense of camaraderie between Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy. 

William Kent Krueger effectively conveys the desperation felt by many during this time period: the cruel conditions at the Native American boarding school and the vulnerability of four kids on the run. Three keys of elements of that time period are also vividly brought to life: the Hoovervilles (homeless settlements), religious revivals popular during that time, and the protests of World War I veterans (which turned into police brutality). The shameful and little-known massacre of Sioux Minnesotans (approved by Abraham Lincoln) is also an important factor in the story. 

I did notice that a Native American character (not Mose) was referred to as "the Indian" several times--I know it was standard use during that time, but it was a bit jarring. 

I felt the final revelation about Odie's lineage was somewhat rushed, but it makes sense for the time period. My one complaint. Overall--if you like sweeping historical reads, check this one out! 

Many thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing a digital copy in exchange for my honest review.
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This Novel is about four orphans who runaway from their school in 1932 during the great depression. On their journey to St Louis they meet many array of characters from farmers to families who either help or hinder them. 

I LOVED this story. I loved the adventure these four characters are sent on and how different each one was to make this story magical. I loved everybody they meet on this journey and their significance to the story. I would give this story 100 stars if I could. If you could take a novel that is almost 400 pages and I feel like I dont want it to end that is a Great storyteller. 

Thank you Atria books and Netgalley for providing me an ARC of this book for an honest review!
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This Tender Land is one of my most anticipated books for September. I enjoy William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series, but I loved his standalone novel “Ordinary Grace” which is so much more than the mystery is seems at first glance. While neither a sequel or prequel, This Tender Land does begin in a rural town named Lincoln and the Lincoln Indian School but our characters spend some time in New Bremen, the same fictional Minnesota town as “Ordinary Grace“. It is a paddling-down-the-river story meant to recall Huck Finn and Jim on the Mississippi. This story is focused mostly on the Mississippi’s tributaries, the Gilead and Minnesota Rivers, not joining the big river until St. Paul, near the end of their journey, but the slightly picaresque adventures are similar.

It all begins at the Lincoln Indian School where the idea of “Kill the Indian, Save the man.” is practiced with cruelty and greed by The Black Witch and her husband. Odie O’Banion, a bright and clever young man is frequently on the receiving end of her ire. Just when Odie sees a chance for something better, his hopes are dashed, so he escapes with his brother Albert, his best friend Mose, and Emmy, a recently orphaned young girl The Black Witch wants to adopt.

They take a canoe and head toward St. Louis where Odie and Albert have an aunt. Along the way, they meet all sorts of people, the kind that takes away your faith in humanity and those who restore it.



This Tender Land is a wonderful novel. I love how this story highlights the history of Minnesota, the cultural genocide, and the literal genocide of Native Americans, the struggles of poor families during the Depression. I also like how each character is well-developed and complex. We even learn some context that makes the Black Witch a little more complicated than the pure evil she seems to be. Not much, but some.

I have always had a fondness for picaresque stories. This is a new addition to a long, proud tradition. This is a story about the power of friendship and love and how we make our own families and how those families lift us up in the world.

This Tender Land will be released on September 3rd. I received an e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.

This Tender Land  at Atria Books | Simon & Schuster
William Kent Krueger author site
Boundary Waters by William Kent Krueger review
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Interesting read with well-developed characters.   Good for fans of Before We Were Yours and The Orphan Train.  Give this to patrons looking for thoughtful historical fiction.
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5+++++++++ stars!!!! Another book that I don’t think I will be able to properly write a review on. This Tender Land is the perfect title for this remarkable story written by William Kent Krueger. This exceptional story taking place during the depression is about four  orphans and the rivers that guide them home. Albert, Mose, Odie and Emmy are courageous, unforgettable children who escape abuse from The Lincoln Indian Training school. Along their journey they meet many different people, some good,  some evil  but ultimately the River and the unforgettable people they meet help them find their way. The first book I read by Krueger was Ordinary Grace which was also exceptional. ,  William Kent Krueger deserves praise for his outstanding storytelling. Thank you Atria books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC for a completely honest review.
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Orphans Odie and his older brother Albert are the only white kids at the Lincoln Indian Training School in Minnesota. It seems the headmistress, or the Black Witch as she is to known to her students, has it out for Odie and he is constantly in trouble.  After an incident occurs in 1932 that could land Odie in even more trouble, the two brothers, along with their friends Mose and Emmy, decide they have no choice but to run away from the school. They set off down the Gilead River in a canoe in search of a place they can call home. Along the way, they have many adventures and encounter some interesting people, both good and bad.  Ultimately, this is a story of loyalty, the power of forgiveness, and of finding one’s place in this world. 

Every so often a book comes along that you know is special., and this is one of those books for me. It was an absolute delight to read. It is beautifully written-almost poetic. Though it almost 500 pages, I was not ready for this book to end and, indeed, wish it had gone on for at least 500 more pages.   If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.  It is an absolute masterpiece of historical fiction and the best book I’ve read this year, hands down. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for the privilege of reading an advanced digital copy of this incredible book in exchange for my honest review.
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This tale of 'killing and kidnapping and children pursued by demons of a thousand names' begins in the Lincoln School in 1932, Minnesota, on the banks of the Gilead. 

I closed it in awe of William Kent Krueger's superlative storytelling. He remains very high on my must read list and I look forward to whatever he writes next.
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This has so much content on so many levels that it is very hard to describe.  On the surface it is the story of four children in the Midwest during the darkest days of the Depression, running from the horrors of abuse at an Indian school and following the rivers south hoping to find and aunt and the dream of "home." It is the story of the wrestling of Good and Bad, of the Old Testament God of Fury and the New Testament God of Love.  It  is of the homeless trying to create their own home, and the orphaned creating a new kind of family.  It is about trust not always being total, about people not always being right - or wrong, it's about a whole lot of things and happening at such a pace and sometimes with such violence, the poor children can scarcely hold themselves together.  But there is also great love, and hope, and wonderful, caring people too.  It's quite a book, more of an experience than a story.  Highly recommended.
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What a wonderful coming-of-age story about four orphans who long for a family and a place to call home.  Set during the depression, the story touches on many of the struggles people were facing during those years.  Most especially heart-breaking was that of the Native Americans.  I had heard of the Indian schools, but this book gave an insider’s view into what went on at some of the schools.

The story centers around two brothers who were sent to the Lincoln school because they were orphans.  Albert and Odie were very close.  Albert was the brain and Odie was somewhat of a troublemaker.  While living at the school, they became close friends with a Sioux named Mose who was around their age.  They also became close to a favorite teacher, Mrs. Frost, and her young daughter Emmy.

A situation unfolds that force the four children to flee the school in a canoe, heading for the Mississippi river and hopefully to find Albert and Odie’s only family in St. Louis.  Naturally, their journey is fraught with peril and along the way, the children begin to find out who they really are and what they are seeking in life.

With an abundance of adventure and bittersweet moments, their story comes full circle, with a very surprising ending.  This was an awesome read that is sure to end up on the bestseller’s list.   The author’s remarks at the end of the story are a “must read” as well.  

Many thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
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I’ve read several novels by this author and really liked Ordinary Grace very much, so when I received an ARC of #This Tender Land, I was very excited.
This is a disturbing account of four orphans who leave an abusive living situation, and make their way along the rivers of Minnesota, in an attempt to find family in St Louis. It is during the  depression, when times were tough, money was hard to come by and food was scarce.
This is their story of what makes a family, the generosity of strangers, even when they don’t have much to share, and the dreams that everyone shares, no matter their situation.
William Kent Krueger is a beautiful writer, with a superior knowledge of the landscape of the area and the Indian lore that dwells there. It’s probably my favorite read, so far this year. 
My thanks for the ARC from # NetGalley and #Simon and Schuster.
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While this book is not a Cork O'Connor story, it will certainly well worth the time it takes to read it.  This Tender Land showcases f Mr. Krueger's talent, versatility in writing and knowledge of his subject.  The narrator states that he is a story teller.  If you have ever met Mr. Krueger you know  he is a story teller of the first degree.  He will even tell you he always his stories going through his mind - I have a grocery list.  This Tender Land starts off with a description of the treatment of children at the Indian School which is really rather hard to read, but continue on, the journey is so well worth the trip.  I love Cork O'Connor, but in some respects this one has that whole series beat.
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