This Tender Land

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Atria Books and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of This Tender Land. I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

In the author's note, William Kent Krueger explains how he intended this novel to have a Huckleberry Finn type of feeling, just updated to take place during the Great Depression. Odie O'Banion and his brother Albert are orphans, sent to live among Native American children in the Lincoln Indian Training School in Minnesota. Odie can do no right in the eyes of the superintendent, landing himself in hot water time and time again. When circumstances force Odie, Albert, their friend Mose, and sweet little Emmy into a canoe on the Mississippi, will the group be able to find a place to call home? As they journey into the unknown away from their problems, will new dangers lurk around every corner?

This Tender Land is a richly imagined story, with well developed characters and a smoothly paced plot. Sometimes, the adventure can mean more than the destination, which is true in this novel. The author does a great job of describing the time period and the landscape of middle America during the early 1930's. Although there were a lot of characters, both main and periphery, I never had a moment of confusion. I thoroughly enjoyed This Tender Land and would recommend it to other readers.
Was this review helpful?
A heartfelt story of four young orphans running away from an abusive Indian training school, trying to get to St Louis, where they hope to find a place of safety.

Well-written and fast paced, with a wonderful cast of characters and a sense of innocence, this is a story that almost everyone will enjoy. The backdrop of the great depression is extremely well done and was a perfect setting for this coming of age tale. I’ve not read any books set in this era before and was shocked at the scale of poverty in America, but the author does a brilliant job in showing how most people stay hopeful in the worst of circumstances. The scenes set in the shantytowns were especially powerful.

If you enjoy novels like The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, you will love this. It was a bit sweet for my taste, and one of the characters were almost childishly evil, so it loses one star, but still a brilliant read.
Was this review helpful?
"...this beautiful, tender land"

"Sure this is hard work, but it’s good work because it’s a part of what connects us to this land. This beautiful, tender land."

I loved this story. It tells of four young people (three of them orphans placed in a government Indian boarding school in Minnesota). It is 1932 in the middle of the Great Depression. Children at the school are treated horribly with beatings, slave labor, solitary confinement, and sometimes worse.

So the four young people run away - with the school and the law on their heels - escaping in a canoe and headed to St. Louis.

The story tells of their ordeals, the good and bad people they meet, as they all try to find a safe home.

This book reminded me in many ways of a few of author Joe Lansdale's standalone novels. He often has young protagonists too and the writing styles are similar to me. And that's a huge compliment from me because Lansdale is one of my favorite authors.

I highly recommend this story to readers that want to experience a moving journey via the pages of a book.

I received this book from Atria Books through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.
Was this review helpful?
So much love for this book. A group of four young orphans flee the Lincoln School (a home for Native American children) during the Depression era. A classic adventure story that starts off in Minnesota via canoe but becomes much more complicated. I fell in love with the fantastic cast of characters that the orphans encountered, as well as the orphans themselves. A compelling story that is a true page turner. I was sad when it was over and still think about the characters.

If you are a fan of John Irving, this book will appeal to you.

This will be discussed on Episode 90 of the Book Cougars podcast.
Was this review helpful?
I am clearly in the minority on this one but I didn’t care for this book. It went on for too long, lacked the rich character development I was expecting and was unrealistic - something I’m not a fan of. Also for not being a Christian book I felt like I was being hit over the head with religion the entire book. Not what I was expecting.
Was this review helpful?
This Tender Land starts off slow and it took me a while to get into, but it is such a thought-provoking adventure read about a group of children struggling to find their place in the world. They each found challenges, strength, and success. I wanted to protect these children and help guide them, and this book was very powerful in this way. 

Thank you for my advanced copy! This was a wonderful read.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this book but I was not in love with it as I had hoped to be. It reminded me too much of Huckleberry Finn with more kids. There were too many coincidences and unbelievable aspects that didn't ring true for me.
Was this review helpful?
This Tender Land was our monthly group read for October in our Traveling Friends Goodreads group. This mesmerizing and absorbing read makes for such a great group read. There is so much to think about and talk about.

This Tender Land swept me away on a thought-provoking adventure along the river with the children here in the story and I lost my heart to them as they searched for their place in the world. I was captivated by the children and their personal journey and adventures. They encounter challenges, threats and kindness from strangers along the way. I loved how with each turn or twist of the river, they learned something about themselves, each other, people and the world around them. In turn, I learned something about myself or saw something different in the world around me.

William Kent Krueger offers up his heart here is this remarkable affecting beautiful story full of hope and possibilities not only for these endearing characters but for us as well.

“In asking you to read This Tender Land, I am, in a way, offering you my heart."

There is some tension here with the danger lurking in every turn. I found myself rooting, fearing for the children and yes, shouting at them at times. I wanted to protect them and was silently teaching them about the ways of the world in my mind but it was them that taught me something. I highly recommend reading this one and as Odie said "Open yourself to every possibility for there is nothing your heart can imagine that is not so"

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley.

My blog post
Was this review helpful?
4.5 Stars! Beautifully written and character driven, this is a story that will stick with me for a while! It's 1932 and 4 young orphans escape from a Native Indian boarding school in Minnesota after a series of terrible events, corruption and abuse. They hop in a canoe and travel down river - heading in search for a long lost relative that they haven't seen in years. I loved the people they meet along the way and the adventures that bring them together. I also loved that this takes place in Mankato and the twin cities area - which made it even more appealing to read!
Was this review helpful?
A beautiful story of hope, redemption and finding our own place in the world. Classic William Kent Krueger, one of my favorite authors. For fans of Leif Enger, Kent Haruf, and Elizabeth Strout. Also likely to have big appeal for those looking for a good follow up to Where the Crawdads Sing. Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader copy! Highly recommend!
Was this review helpful?

Krueger’s Ordinary Grace remains one of my favorite reads of all time so I came into this with pretty lofty expectations. My expectations were easily exceeded. These four unassuming vagabonds will pull you into their lives where you’ll never want to leave. My heartstrings will forever be attached to these characters. There are so many beautiful and poignant quotes in this that my highlights look like a novel in themselves. One of my favorites- 

“Only God is perfect, Odie. To the rest of us, he gave all kinds of wrinkles and cracks. If we were perfect, the light he shines on us would just bounce right off. But the wrinkles, they catch the light. And the cracks, that’s how the light gets inside us. When I pray, Odie, I never pray for perfection. I pray for forgiveness, because it’s the one prayer I know will always be answered.” 

I can not recommend this novel enough.
Was this review helpful?
Beautiful story about the journey of four young friends during the Great Depression. Gut-wrenching and redemptive. Excellent writing.
Was this review helpful?
What a fantastic journey this book takes us on! Although there were many destinations along this journey, I never found myself bored or wondering where the story was going. I also loved that the author included the narrator's reflections from the future, making this a more realistic story from an elder. Lots of moments of chills toward the end..the name, especially.
Was this review helpful?
This was a great read. I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone who enjoys Krueger’s work.  The characters were easy to commiserate with and were likable.
Was this review helpful?
The epic story of This Tender Land is full of adventure. I quickly found myself invested in the story. I even caught myself reminiscing about books written back in the day. This Tender Land is a great story with interesting characters who I came to care about. This is a bit of a long book, but I very much enjoyed the engaging story and the vibrant characters.
Was this review helpful?
Wowza! Loved everything about this book. Masterfully written storytelling. Absolutely brilliant! Highly recommend if you haven’t read this one yet.
Was this review helpful?
3.75 stars

It took me a while to get through This Tender Land, but in the end I quite liked it. The story is set in the 1930s, told from the perspective of an old man looking back at a few months when he was 12 years old. When Oddie and his older brother Albert become orphans, they are sent to live in an Indian residential school. The conditions are horrific, and Oddie, Albert and a couple of other kids find a way to escape. The rest of the story focuses on their adventures and their attempts to survive in the harsh world of the Great Depression.  They meet a fair balance of people who help and people who want to harm them. The novel has the feel of old fashioned story telling – some adventure and suspense with plenty of heartbreak and good feelings. I enjoyed it, but found it a bit long and a tad sentimental.  Many readers enjoyed it far more than I did, so you should read their reviews too. Thanks to Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Was this review helpful?
My favorite thing about reading books is when I connect to the characters. We don't have to be anything alike but I have to care about them or sometimes, hate them, so much that the people seem real and I want to know what happens next in the story and with the characters. I cared about Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy but also, I cared about so many other characters in this book. 

The story takes place during the summer of 1932, right before Odie turns thirteen. He and his sixteen year old brother Albert are the only white children at the Lincoln School, an institution for Native American children, who were forcibly removed from their families, in order to eradicate as much of their culture from them as possible. The school is a horrible place, with the children doing manual labor of all kinds for the benefit of those willing to take advantage of free child labor. Also included in the school experience were beatings, sexual abuse and lock ups in a primitive cell. Odie was a frequent visitor to that cell because he couldn't abide by the harsh ways of the school and spoke up on numerous occasions. 

That summer, several things happen that lead to Odie killing a man and the Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy must go on the run. They plan to find their aunt who lives in St Paul and ask her to take them in but the journey is fraught with danger, hunger, and often a feeling of hopelessness that rivaled their time at the home. The characters make this story for me, that and Odie's story telling, which may or may not be always accurate, as he tells the story in his eighties. 

Thank you to Atria books and NetGalley for this ARC.
Was this review helpful?
It would take some effort to be a Minnesotan working in some form of book-related occupation (seller, librarian, reviewer, etc) and not be familiar with William Kent Krueger. He is best known for his Cork O'Connor mystery series ... known for this enough so that it's quite noteworthy when he comes out with a book that isn't part of the series.

I'm not among Krueger's legion of dedicated fans - I've only read a few of the Cork O'Connor books and I've enjoyed them well-enough but I don't wait eagerly for each new book (though I know people who do) - but I do enjoy his work, so I do request his books when I see them available for review.

This Tender Land also takes place in Minnesota, like many of his other books, but it takes place during the Depression era of the 1930's in rural Minnesota.    Our narrator is a young orphan, Odie O’Banion, who, along with his brother Albert, lives in a home/school that is meant for Indian children. The caretakers of the home are vile humans who steal the money sent to the children by families, beat the children regularly, and cage them in inhumane conditions for often made-up infractions.

Odie and Albert have had about as much as they can take and when Odie accidentally kills a worker (in self-defense), they decide it is time to run away.  They take a number of their fellow children with them and have many strange encounters on their journey as they try to avoid capture.

I had three very strong reactions as I read through this.  The first two I believe have been commented on in other reviews of the book by other reviewers: 1) there is a strong sense of this being a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn-style adventure or retelling; 2) the the sense of this being a retelling of Homer's The Odyssey is not just strong but sometimes hit-over-the-head overt (Odie's name is short for Odysseus); and 3) sometimes this book was so depressing I wasn't sure I wanted to finish it.

Krueger is a powerful writer and he really sucks you into his stories. His characters are painfully real - "painfully" because we experience their fears and anger and trauma right along with them.  And given the abysmal conditions our protagonists grow in, we have a lot of trauma to experience.

The story unfolds remarkably well.  Again, you expect nothing less from a storyteller like Krueger. And this was a story that, even while I was too often uncomfortable and feeling some anxiety over what was happening, I couldn't help but keep reading.

There were moments when The Odyssey angle was just a little too much for me.  It's seems to be in vogue to retell The Odyssey and I'm not sure I need that anymore, though at least Krueger does it well. But when the retelling is so strong that the reader consciously makes the connection, then why not read the original?

This is a powerful story, often uncomfortable, and possibly not for everyone.

Looking for a good book? This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger is a slight departure for Krueger as this literary novel retells The Odyssey story with an orphan boy in the Great Depression as our main protagonist.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This Tender Land should be a staple in American literature.  What an amazing, heartfelt and timely story!  It is a moving, engaging, immersive read that caused me to fall in love with each character along the way.  The writing is so vivid and the characters so well developed that everything jumps from the page.  A five star super star read for me!

This Tender Land begins in Minnesota at the Lincoln School in 1932.  Hundreds of Native American children are forcibly separated from their parents and sent to the Lincoln School to be 'reformed'. The school is also home to orphans Odie and Albert O'Banion. The superintendent finds Odie at fault for most any infractions at the school. It isn't long before Odie finds himself forced to flee the school, taking Albert, their best friend Mose and little Emily with them. Their journeys down river as they try to evade law enforcement and the school superintendent, all while headed toward the idea of a home in St. Louis, are rich with a host of colorful characters and experiences. 

I cannot stress enough how much I think everyone should run out and pick up this book immediately. I can definitely say that anything else William Kent Krueger writes will be on my must read list. 

I received this book courtesy of Atria Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?