This Tender Land

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

William Kent Krueger is a powerful storyteller and developer of characters. His Minnesota series shines, his standalone novel Ordinary Grace was memorable, and now comes This Tender Land, destined to be a new classic. In the past I've verged toward contemporary novels rather than those with a historical setting. But this story may have changed that for me. The desperation of the Great Depression is presented through unique portraits of many vivid characters. The tragedy and cruelty of Indian schools of the time educates the reader. And the four orphan "vagabonds" in their escape down the Mississippi River will live vividly in this reader's memory. An exceptional journey! Bravo!
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“The tale I’m going to tell is of a summer long ago. Of killing and kidnapping and children pursued by demons of a thousand names. There will be courage in this story and cowardice. There will be love and betrayal. And of course, there will be hope. In the end, isn’t that what every good story is about?” – Odysseus O’Banion

There are a few authors that I’ve read in my life that make me feel as if I know their soul just by reading their words. William Kent Krueger is one of them. He can tell a wondrous story, as he does in This Tender Land, and even in midst of the most brutal, heart-breaking or frightening settings, compassion and love wash through like a mighty river.

This is a story about children who were forced to endure loss and pain at a tender age, and the sometimes unimaginable things they did to cope with their hurt and to survive. In the end, it all came down to each of them finding what they needed the most.

Set in 1932 in Minnesota, Odie and Albert are orphan brothers, the only white children at the Lincoln School, where Native American children with no families were sent. The school is a brutal place for all the children living there, and punishment is swift and doled out with wicked pleasure by the owners of the establishment, Mr. and Mrs. Brickman and their lackey, DiMarco. Odie and Albert are close friends with Mose, a young Sioux who lives at the school and speaks in sign language because his tongue was cut out when he little.

Albert is a rule-follower and is often exasperated at the rebellious nature of the younger, twelve year-old Odie, but the two love each other fiercely and do what they can to protect each other from the harsh conditions of the school.

When a tornado rips through the area, and after Odie performs a terrible act, the two flee along with Mose and six year-old Emmy, a neighbor, whose loving mother was killed during the storm. They take to the Gilead River in a canoe to find an aunt living in St. Louis, always trying to stay one step ahead of those who would either drag them back to the hellish life they had been living, or throw them in jail.

“Everything that’s been done to us we carry forever. Most of us do our damnedest to hold on to the good and forget the rest. But somewhere in the vault of our hearts, in a place our brains can’t or won’t touch, the worst is stored, and the only sure key to it is in our dreams.” 

A true Huck Finn type tale, the story weaves through the lives of those the children encounter on their journey. Their passage along the river is filled with danger and horrors, but there is always good to be found wherever they go, even if it’s not always obvious.

Narrated by the adult Odie, who has a gift for storytelling throughout his life, you know from the beginning that he survived their trek, and his many adventures along the way kept me enthralled and sometimes made me ache.

William Kent Krueger gently introduces topics in his story that are relevant today, including the abominable treatment toward Native Americans in their own country, the marginalization of others, racial and ethnic prejudice, poverty, gender roles and situations. And just as in his novel Ordinary Grace, there is a current of spirituality that runs through it all. This is something that can easily turn me off, especially in today’s climate of so much faux Christianity. However, it is obvious that the author isn’t trying to force religious beliefs on the reader, and that everything he writes comes from the deepest, sweetest place. I melted at his words, and I applaud the subtle, loving and non-judgmental position he takes throughout the novel.

“Open yourself to every possibility, for there is nothing your heart can imagine that is not so.” 

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an ARC of this exquisite novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 5 stars
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I love this author and this book. 
Krueger knows how to craft a good storyline and plot . His characters are always spot on. 
Wonderful read!
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me review this book
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Mark your calendars for September 3rd, as you will not want to miss the release of this extraordinary novel!  What an absolutely resplendent tale by William Kent Krueger, one that is destined to become a classic. It was such a privilege to embark on this adventure, with four endearing young friends, in a story line the likes of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, though much more engrossing. Along the way, Mr. Krueger does a tremendous job illuminating the profound racial inequality that plagued Native Americans in the early part of the twentieth century.  He intimately depicts the economic hardships of the Great Depression, going so far as to describe the makeshift communities that sprung up far and wide during these times, and even touches on the lure of Christian revivals during that time period.  His characterization of reprehensible individuals is astonishing, and makes the reader cringe as the protagonist encounters them throughout the novel. Krueger balances this evil with redemptive souls, that allow the reader to recognize the good that surrounds us.

I absolutely fell in love with Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy, and will not soon forget their indomitable spirit.  Hold on to your seats, friends... it's going to be a wild ride!

Many thanks to Atria Books and Net Galley for gifting me with this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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What a wild ride down the river! Intoxicating and such a heart-felt story. Reminiscent qualities of John Steinbeck with sense of time and place. I did not want this book to end! The plight of Native American children is strong in this narrative and I feel the most important take away. I feel as Americans we need to not only face the truths of what we did to our Native Peoples and all others we enslaved but also own those truths. Only then can we heal and move forward. 

I could have gotten along better with this novel without the “God” references. I found the references off-putting. It took me time to realize the significance. Looking forward to reading “Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School” by Adam Fortunate Eagle. 

After reading “Ordinary Grace” by Krueger I wanted more of the same. It took time to find another book to read after such a wonderful novel. Thank you to the publisher, Atria Books, (Simon&Schuster)and NetGalley for giving me the gift of this book. And,  of course to William Kent Krueger.
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This Tender Land by William Ken Krueger was another amazing read.  His book Ordinary Grace is one of my favorite books.  This Tender Land is not related to Ordinary Grace and is a stand alone book. I did receive this as an advanced copy for Simon & Shuster with a release date of September 3rd, 2019.  

This book is mainly about four orphaned children set in a school for Native American boys and girls who are separated from their families during the Great Depression.  Odie and Albert are the only white children at the school.  Mose is mute and Emmy loses both of her parents.  The children are forced to escape from the school on the Gilead River in a canoe.  The children survive many adventures on the way to an aunt that lives in St. Louis.  They meet many people along the way, some are good and some are cruel.  There are some good lessons about kindness, trust, and humanity..  

This book is difficult to describe.  It is not a mystery but you never know the kind of person the children will meet.  It is beautifully written.  It was a book that I kind of dragged on because I did not want it to end.  I hope everyone enjoys this book as much as I did.  Let's hope Mr. Krueger has many more novels in his future.
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Thank you Netgalley for this book. I enjoyed the story very much. It was a
heartbreaking story at times and I found myself wanting to be the one to rescue these boys from the many unkind people in their lives.
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In 2013, William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Krueger was under contract for a companion novel, which was eagerly awaited by his publisher and readers alike. The problem was that the novel didn’t live up to Krueger’s high standards for his work. He couldn’t justify sending the manuscript to his publisher if he himself was not satisfied. With his publisher’s understanding and approval, he scrapped the project and started anew. The result is a heart-touching, soul-stirring journey titled, This Tender Land.

Set in 1932, the tale begins at the Lincoln School for Native American children who have been separated from their families. The narrator is 12-year-old Odie O’Banion, who, with his older brother Albert, makes the only non-Indian students in the whole school. The boys’ closest friend is a mute Sioux Indian lad named Mose, unable to speak because of a terrible cruelty committed against him when he was very young. They communicate with Mose using sign language. Life at the school is hard. The unspoken motto is, “Kill the Indian, save the man.” Speaking native languages or displaying any native customs are punishable offenses. The school’s superintendent is a cruel woman called “the Black Witch” by the students. As a white boy, Odie is not immune to discipline, however. In fact, trouble seems to find him, no matter what, and he frequently finds himself in solitary confinement at night in “the quiet room.” Fortunately, he has an ally in a kind German man, Herman Volz, who sneaks him food at night. 

One night, something so terrible occurs that Odie is forced to flee. Naturally, Albert and Mose accompany him. First, they retrieve Odie’s most prized possession, his harmonica, and in the process, they make a life-altering decision. They choose to allow sweet little recently orphaned Emmy Frost, to accompany them on their flight. This puts them all in danger with the law and has them constantly looking over their shoulders. The author admits the influences of Huckleberry Finn, the Odyssey, and the writings of Charles Dickens as he penned this saga. 

The Vagabonds, as they come to call themselves, start out on the Gilead River. There is no such river in Minnesota; the name and the flowing waters of the river symbolize so much in this story. Gilead is mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament. In This Tender Land, it represents life, religion and baptism, faith and doubt, good and evil, trials and tribulations. It may even represent the river and the land itself, the land that gives and the land that takes away, like the god that Odie calls “Tornado God.” Our young travelers encounter many hardships during their sojourns. Because they are traveling by canoe, they face inclement weather and hunger. They experience loneliness and fear. When they encounter strangers, whom do they trust? Always, always they must be on the lookout for the Brinkmans from the school and for the law. Odie keeps up his spirits and those of the others with his harmonica and his stories.

As always in Krueger’s writing, the characters are superb. Odie is a brilliant storyteller and harmonica player who tends toward impulsive behavior. He follows his heart. More than anything, he wants a real home. Older brother Albert is highly intelligent, with the brain and skill of a mechanical engineer. He is cautious and very protective of his family; three of his companions are considered family. Mose is agile, strong, and a very gifted athlete. As a Native American with no family, he longs to know who he is. Little Emmy is like an old soul. She has a very extraordinary gift, one that she does not fully realize yet. There are also some very memorable characters whom they meet along the way: Jack, Sister Eve, Forrest, John Kelly, and Gertie. 

Their journey takes them far, farther than one might expect a foursome of youngsters to survive. Odie’s goal is to make it to St. Louis, where he knows that an aunt lives. He hopes she will take them in. I looked at a map; it is a long, long way by canoe to get to St. Paul and then paddle via the Mississippi River to St. Louis. How in the world can three teenagers and a little girl with little money ever make it so far? 

The characters and the plot are memorable; so too are the themes. Jack, the man Odie refers to as “pig scarer” because he has only one eye, talks about the land, the “tender land.” It is all intertwined, he says, the earth, the river, the sky, and humanity. It all ties in with God. At this point, Odie is so angry with God for the bad things that have happened. He doesn’t trust God. Even when he meets Sister Eve at the traveling crusade, he has serious doubts. As does Albert. It is little Emmy who trusts. Faith, trust, love, family. Home.
There are so many lessons here. As Odie’s spur-of-the-moment stories are parables for his innermost thoughts, This Tender Land is filled with themes of self-discovery, first love, coming-of-age, and forgiveness. Finally, Krueger shows us the day-in-day-out struggles of folks during the depression and the sad, cruel treatment inflicted upon Americas native peoples. 

In the epilogue, a much older, wiser Odie O’Banion looks back on those days with fondness and love for his fellow Vagabonds. He summarizes their lives, and he also fills in the gaps of those for whom he was not so fond. We learn the fate of his friends and foes, and he leaves us with a final message: if we open our hearts like children, our hopes and dreams can become reality.

I offer my sincere thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books, and Mr. William Kent Krueger for allowing me the privilege of reading This Tender Land as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

5 stars
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Thank you to Net Galley for an Advanced Reader Copy of this lyrical novel.  I was so sorry to say goodbye to Odie and his pals when it ended.  William Kent Krueger wrote a truly beautiful novel with This Tender Land.
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“This Tender Land” is a 
huckleberry-esque experience, one that captivates your mind even when you, sadly, have to put your book down to attend to the affairs of this life. Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy struggle for freedom under extraordinary circumstances, all the while forming a bond, that when  tested at times, proves to be strong. In the end, each child learns something about themselves, whether it’s their history, their own strengths and weaknesses, or the kindnesses and cruelties of this world, they each grow up and grow stronger through it all. This is a tale of days gone by that you can fall into and escape for a while and I highly recommend it. Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy to review.
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Just as spectacular as Ordinary Grace!  Oldie, the main character, is beautifully created by Krueger and will live in your memory for a long time.  The story of the four “Vagabonds” slowly unfurls across the landscape of the Depression, bringing into focus the great hardships and the less common but incredibly special gifts of human compassion and generosity.  Every character fulfills a crucial role in this tale and there is not a moment when the reader is not engaged.  The prose, the depth of characterization, the story are all excellent.  A must read.
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Set in the backdrop of the Great Depression, the Lincoln School is home to Native Americans and children who have been separated from their families. 

Odie and Albert (the only 2 white boys at the school), Mose (a mute Native American boy), and Emmy (a young child with a hard life ahead of her) flee the school and the law after tragedy strikes. 

They head down the Gilead River in a canoe. The summer of 1932 will set in motion a string of events that forces these vagabonds to shed their innocence, form a fierce devotion to one another, and question both the intentions of man and faith in God.

Odie narrates this heartbreaking tale as he and the others struggle to find their place in the world. This is one of the most - if not THE most - moving story I’ve read this year to date. It’s everything memorable fiction should be: enticing, dangerous, and thought provoking. An absolute must read!
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This book is a combination of The Wizard of Oz, Huck Finn, and The Orphan Train.
The characters are well developed, and their adventures keep the reader engaged while the story unfolds.
Reminicent of old days when stories were told rather than read, the path of the four children take them
together and separately towards their futures.
An easy read that stays with you long after the last page.
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Moses a Sioux Indian boy, Albert, Odie and little Emily have escaped the clutches of the black witch. She is the administrator of the school where they are housed, punished, abused and worked almost beyond endurance. They are all orphans. Emily has just recently lost her mother in a tornado. Albert and Odie are brothers and the only white kids in the Indian school. Moses was found by his dead mother when he was little with his tongue cut out. These four vagabonds will learn about love, loyalty, bravery, trust,and faith on their amazing odyssey canoeing toward a faded memory of an Aunt Julia somewhere in Saint Louis. A place called home. On their journey they'll encounter people who will help them. Those that would harm them, steal from them, or turn them in to the authorities for monetary gain. Added to this is the time, the great depression. Where people are desperate to survive. There are so many other parts that are so important, but you just have to read this book. I enjoyed every single minute I spent reading this. Evocative, exciting, heartbreaking and heartwarming. 5 Stars!!
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Set in the time of the Great Depression  a heartwarming story about 2 orphan Brothers, the only white children in a school for Native Americans.children. The older brother mostly stays out of trouble, but the younger brother seems to incur the wrath oh the head  mistress. Forced to flee they set out on a journey down the Mississippi  with their Mute Indian friend Mose and a young girl Emmy. They occur  many struggles in their journey to find a place they can call home.
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I literally flew through this book william Kent Krueger's series are wonderful, but I feel he really shines in this type of novel. I lived Ordinary Grace and this book is just as good. I can’t wait to discuss this novel in our book group.
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Loved this coming of age journey set in the time period of the depression. The author said his intention was to write an updated verion of Huckleberry Finn and from my perspective, he did just that. The characters are well defined and I loved spending time with them. My only criticism lies in the ages of both Odie and Emmy. If they were more like 15 and 10, Id have found their worldly wisdom and empathy much more believable.
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This Tender Land is a novel full of wisdom, adventure and warmth.   Odie and his fellow vagabonds form a unique bond and their adventure, escaping a "black witch" to seek a new home and sense of belonging is a thrill to follow.  Though some of the character development is a bit abrupt, its clear that Krueger developed his characters with craft and purpose - and his narrative has the same artistic and thematic depth as Ordinary Grace.
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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I thoroughly enjoyed This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. The author's descriptions of life and turmoil of the 1930's depression years was captivating . You felt like you were there with the children as the traveled on the river in their canoe. A great book for young and old alike to discover that family is not necessarily those blood related to you, but those you let into your daily life. Great book club read and discussion. 5 stars Mr. Krueger!!*****
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I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure, or misadventure about four young people who ran from a corrupt  and nasty school in order to find a place in the world, a home.    The story did remind me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but in another time and with more at stake.  

Mr. Krueger does a great job giving his characters hopes, dreams, fears and drawing on all of those things to make us want to see a perfect ending for each of them.

Do they get that? You will have to read the book to find out.  

Thank you Netgalley for this early read.
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