This Tender Land

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for an ARC. 5 epic ⭐️ for this wonderful (and at times heart breaking) book. This, from the book’s synopsis describes it perfectly, “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.” It was a Huck Finn/Stand By Me mash up. Highly recommend for men or women.
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Odie and Albert have lost their parents.  They are sent to a school for Native American children who must also live there,  Odie and Albert are sent there as the orphanage is full.  They are told the rules and what happens when they disobey.  Odie easily gets into trouble.  Odie and Albert make friends with a mute Native American.  He can hear but not talk,  His name is Mose.  All three of the become friends with a teacher who has a little girl named Emmy.  As time flies by, the teacher tells them that she can get them to live at her home for the summer as she needs help with her farm.  The boys say yes and are excited to live with her for the summer.  Unfortunately an event occurs that kills the teacher so the summer plans are “lost.”  The three boys decide to leave on their own but when Emmy finds out, she wants to go with them.  A decision is made to take Emmy with them as Emmy is so unhappy withe her new parents,  Why is Emmy unhappy?   How do they travel?   Albert is planning on finding their aunt in St. ..Louis where they can hopefully stay.  Will that happen?   Is there a happy ever after?

This novel  is fascinating and reads like a dream.  It was very easy for me to get involved with the characters of this novel.  I ended up caring very much about what happened to them.  Their journey was an adventure with unexpected twists and turns,  some of it was rather scary.  They meet farmers struggling, traveling faith healers, families with no homes, and others.  The novel grabs your heart without realizing it until you finish the book.
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This Tender Land is a coming of age historical novel that follows four young orphans as they make the journey to St. Louis during the summer of 1932. This was my first William Kent Krueger book and I was very impressed by his beautiful prose and rich storylines.

I loved getting to know the four main characters and following along with them on their journey which included many hardships and included important parts of American history from this time period. There were lighter moments but I would not classify this as an easy read. There were many tough topics that Krueger included and you can tell from his writing that he did his research. I did really enjoy their quest to find "home" and help them realize what the definition of "family" really means. 

This is definitely a character-driven novel and it was one of those books that came together slowly for me. There are heavier and important moments that I don't want to downplay but it did, at certain points, feel a bit tedious. I did love seeing their journeys both literally and figuratively as they navigated this trek.

If you enjoyed Where The Crawdads Sing, it felt like a similar reading experience for me. The ending felt very satisfying and the detailed multi-layered characters added so much to this rich storyline.
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This Tender Land introduces us to the Lincoln School in Minnesota, 1932 .  A school that is run by a women with less than stellar convictions for children’s wellbeing, after all most are native Americans.  Some of the instructors are caring people who work with the children while others are monsters that should not be allowed near any child.  It is into this atmosphere we are introduced to our four main characters of Odie, Albert, Emmy and Mose.  Four children who are left at the hands of the “black witch”.  They leave on an epic journey to find a place to be safe.  A home for them, where they are safe, fed warm and loved. They journey down the river into the great Mississippi from Minnesota, while being hunted by the “black witch” and her minions.

The journey is a physical feat, but also one of growth and understanding.  They meet so many people struggling to survive, a landscape that is guided by the rise and fall of the river seasonally and the horrid conditions of the depression with huge groups of displaced people.  I loved how Odie was the narrator and how the book followed his not yet thirteen year old understanding of the world.  I enjoyed how they were family and understood so little about each other and themselves.  They were brave and fearless, full of hope and need, looking for their place in the world.  

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger is a wonderful read of an epic journey along a sweeping river of change.
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The TENDER LAND is one summer’s journey for a band of children seeking refuge from a terrible situation during the Depression.  Or so author William Kent Kruger would have the reader start his book believing and he does write well with prose that causes the mind to soar with imagination.  But as the story progresses, this band of children meet an assortment of people and learn lessons beyond what would seem possible even for the times.  It is towards the end that we realize Krueger has re-written the Odyssey with this new set of characters and location.  His work is engaging and brave.  This is a fascinating book, not easily forgotten.  I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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A courageous story of a makeshift family of orphans. So much love can be found within the pages of this book. As these three boys and little girl seek out the love and freedoms of the world they’ve never had, on the river. They find a safe place within this family they create, the bonds of which are tested as life’s realities come to light. They see the goodness and the harshness of humanity as they meet all kinds of people along their journey. I was inspired by how these kids took the very little kindness life had given them and let that shape their character, taking all the bits of good they encounter in. This book showcases love and kindness in an endearing way, Mr Krueger is a masterful storyteller. I fell in love with Odie, his stories and the beautiful way he sees the world and the people in it and was reminded to continue to hope that people can be as good as you believe they are.
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Depression-era Minnesota is the backdrop for this tale of 4 vagabond adolescents as they travel down the Mississippi River in search of a new home and themselves.  This Tender Land is narrated by Odie who along with his brother, Albert, mute friend Moses and sister-like companion Emmy leave the Lincoln Schoool, an indian training school, where they lived in search of Albert and Obie's aunt in St. Louis.  While they transverse down the Mississippi River they come across a handful of colorful characters that will greatly impact not only their travels but also their futures.  This Tender Land is a story about love, growing up, forgiveness and family.


I didn't go into This Tender Land expecting it to like it that much.  I was completely surprised by how much this tale hooked me in from the beginning.  My heart pounded with Odie's as I wondered if they would escape the harsh confides of the Lincoln School and the Black Witch (the headmistress).  I'm not a religious person and was a little worried when God started getting mentioned so much in the story with one character.  Ultimately that didn't impact my opinion of the story and the rational behind God's mentioning heavily in portions of the story made complete sense.  William Kent Krueger beautifully paints the landscape of Minnesota but also highlights the harsh cruelty that face some in the heartland.  No area in the U.S. is without  its racism and it still exists today, sadly.  If you're looking for a heart-felt historical fiction novel, especially not one set in WW2, pick up a copy of This Tender Land.
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Wow, what a story!  It’s not often that I start a review off this way, but I’m a bit speechless right now — all I know is that this book is absolutely deserving of all the accolades it had gotten up to this point, so what better way to start this review than with the first thought that came into my head after finishing this one.  The summary for this book refers to it as a “big-hearted epic” that has “the feel of a modern classic,” which is a description I definitely agree with, though beyond that, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to also use the word “masterpiece” to describe William Kent Krueger’s beautifully written newest novel.  This is a book I would heartily recommend – one that packs a lot of heart and plenty of soul into a powerful, absorbing story with some of the most richly developed, endearing characters I’ve come across in awhile.
 
The story opens with our main protagonist Odie O’Banion, an elderly man now well into the eighth decade of his life, who is asked by his great-grandchildren to tell them a story — which, as a lifelong storyteller, is a task he is more than willing to oblige.   He starts to recount for them the story of what happened to him during the summer of 1932 and from there, we are taken back several decades to when Odie was 12 years old and ends up with his older brother Albert at the Lincoln Indian Training School in Minnesota after their father dies.  Odie’s lively personality and mischievous nature gets him into constant trouble with the school’s superintendent Thelma Brickman, who is given the moniker ‘the Black Witch’ for her cruel and ruthless treatment of the hundreds of children in her care, many of whom were Native American children forcibly separated from their parents and sent to the school to be educated.  It is not long before circumstances force Odie to flee the school and together with his brother Albert, along with their best friend at the school, a mute Native American boy named Mose,  and 6-year-old Emmy Frost, whom they all adore as a little sister in tow, they set out in a canoe, journeying along the Gilead River toward Mississippi in search of a place they could call home.  On their journey, these 4 orphans, who nicknamed themselves “the Vagabonds,” encounter an eclectic mix of characters from various walks of life — people with good intentions as well as bad ones; depraved families displaced as a result of the Great Depression; people who themselves are struggling to survive, yet display a generosity of spirit that is unparalleled; a faith healer who helps Odie and the others discover their true selves; Gertie and the others they meet in the backwater shanty towns of Saint Paul.  Along the way, the 4 of them must also reckon with the past and confront a cruel history — specifically the country’s inhumane treatment of Native Americans.  In the end, the journey becomes one of self-discovery and regardless of the outcomes, each child’s life becomes enriched from what they experienced during that fateful summer.
 
Clocking in at  nearly 500 pages, this book covers a lot of ground both thematically and historically, yet never once does it feel overwhelming or tedious to read.  Krueger’s prose here is masterful, and as our narrator, Odie’s voice and the amazing story he tells is poignant as well as absorbing.  This is very much a character-driven story with Odie and his fellow “Vagabonds” as the driving force of the entire narrative,  however with that said, all the other characters that they crossed paths with at different points in the  journey were equally important in shaping this into the powerful story that it became.  For me, the best historical fiction novels are the ones that have the ability to transport me to a time and place where I feel as though I am experiencing the events personally alongside the characters, and without a doubt, this book absolutely accomplished that.  More significantly though was the emotional resonance of the story, as I felt like I experienced the entire spectrum of emotions while reading this – whether it was anger at the way the children were being treated at the school, sadness at the plights of the families displaced due to circumstances not of their doing, joyfulness when Odie and the gang triumphed over one obstacle after another, hopefulness during those moments when even those people with the hardest of hearts were moved enough to help others in need (those were just a few  examples).  This was a story where every character touched my heart in some way, to the point that I was reluctant to see the story end because I wanted to be with these characters for as long as I could.
 
I don’t give 5 stars very often, but this book definitely deserved it (actually, if I could give more stars, I would)!  I’ve heard a lot about Krueger’s works over the years, though (I am a bit ashamed to admit) this is the first book of his that I’ve actually read (a wrong that I hope to rectify some time in the near future!).   In a letter to his readers at the beginning of this book, Krueger talks about “pouring the best of himself into this story” and in asking us to read it, he is “offering [us] his heart” --  I am honored to have taken up this offer and in so doing, I can now count this among one of my favorite reads this year!    If you get the chance to read this one, I hope that you will also love it as much as I have!

Received ARC from Atria Books via NetGalley
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William Kent Krueger is a beautiful storyteller, and This Tender Land is more proof.  I saved this book for a bit, because I knew I would want to take my time and absorb it.  I was so right to do so!
The Lincoln School in Minnesota is a terrible place to wind up, more so during the depression era in the United States.  It is even more harsh if you are Native American.  4 children realize this all too well and take off on their own, carving out their own worlds.
My review does not do this amazing book justice....you will be better for having read it.
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This is my first William Ken Krueger book, and I have been missing out – what a wonderful storyteller.

This Tender Land is a journey-based narrative, framed as a story being told by 80 year old Odie (short for Odysseus) O’Banion, who is relating the events of the summer he, his brother Albert, and their friends Emmy and Mose ran away from the Lincoln School for Native American children. Set during the Great Depression, the children encounter many other individuals along their journey who have a lasting impact on the trajectory of their lives. One of the most interesting historical details included in the story is a traveling healing show that the children join for a time. This is a coming of age story, told from Odie’s point of view, but Albert, Emmy and Mose are all richly developed characters in their own right, and all have their own paths to take in this story.

This was a delightful reading experience that I didn’t want to end. I read in the author’s note that this is a companion novel to Ordinary Grace, so of course I immediately bought that one and can’t wait to enjoy more of Krueger’s wonderful storytelling.
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This Tender Land is the story of four "Vagabond children" (orphans) on a journey during the summer of 1932. They leave dire circumstances at a boarding school for Indian youths in Minnesota with the goal of finding a better home with their aunt in St. Louis. Along the way they face harrowing events but somehow manage to keep going. They meet interesting characters, learn life lessons, and learn to rely on their developing instincts. It's a coming of age story that had me cheering Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy as they searched for home. I appreciated the epilogue as well as the author's note that rounds out the novel and answered questions I'd had while reading.
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"You're a storyteller. You can create the world in any way your heart imagines." 

"That won't make it true."

"Maybe the universe is one grand story, and who says that it can't be changed in the telling?"

The main character, Odie O'Banion, is a storyteller and a musician, and an almost 13-year old with a penchant for getting in trouble, but always looking out for his family, no less.

This book was heartwarming, heartbreaking, and an atmospheric telling of a journey of 4 young orphans trying to find a better life. The characters within this novel are so wonderful and richly developed - and the scene in 1932 Minnesota depicted a land hit with economic hardship, but still beautiful in its natural surroundings. Everyone in the book had a special relationship with the land, and the title of the book was expertly woven into the story.  It was a joy to read about each character, and Odie and Emmy were my favorites. Sister Eve was intriguing, as well. Reading about the children's escape from the Lincoln School in search of a new home made me feel for them and what they'd gone through. It's horrible to think that there are many similar stories that can be told about real people.  

This novel felt long at times, but it was a beautifully rich story. There was one reveal towards the end that really surprised me!  The author's note at the end is a must read - Krueger's research is spectacular and I want to read more on the history shared through This Tender Land. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for the review copy of This Tender Land!
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3.5 stars rounded up.  I seem to be in the minority on this one and didn't absolutely love it.  Having read and loved Ordinary Grace I was excited to have an ARC of this one but it fell a bit flat for me.  Maybe from having such high expectations.  The writing was lovely but I felt the first half dragged.  A coming of age story about two white brothers ending up in an orphanage with Indians and their summer journey when they end up leaving/escaping the children's home along with their two companions also from the children's home.

Their story is a long, sprawling one and will captivate fans who enjoy stories such as Where the Crawdads Sing. 

*This ARC was provided by the publisher, Atria via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Loved this book and love this author! He really knows how to tell a story. Thanks Net Galley for granting my wish.
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THIS TENDER LAND by William Kent Krueger (author of Ordinary Grace and Cork O'Connor mysteries) is a new work of historical fiction that received a starred review from Library Journal and was a LibraryReads selection for September.  In an author's note Krueger says, "I've poured the best of myself into this story ... [as a key character says] 'open yourself to every possibility, for there is nothing your heart can imagine that is not so.'"  Set in Minnesota in the summer of 1932, Krueger's novel deals with themes of social justice, survival, and belonging. THIS TENDER LAND tells the story of four orphans, "impish" Odie (the narrator) and his older brother, mechanically minded Albert, plus their very strong Sioux friend Mose/Amdacha and little Emmy whom they all try to protect. Together, the four take a canoe on the Gilead River towards the Mississippi in the hopes of eventually finding family in Saint Louis. Along the way, they encounter cruelty and kindness, sickness and hunger, as well as joy through friendship and music. Booklist also recommends THIS TENDER LAND, saying "teens will enjoy this historical crossover novel of adventure, and identify with its young protagonist." My only concern is the length – 464 pages is too long for a required read and only the more motivated students will select it as an independent choice. Those who do will find that the characters are appealing and their travels and adventures certainly pull readers through the story. Adults and book groups, particularly those who liked Where the Crawdads Sing, should definitely consider this heartland tale, too. Highly recommended.
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Honestly, I’m not sure how to rate this. Was it well written? Yes. Did I feel for these orphaned children on their journey? Yes, but not as much as I thought I would. I was entertained, but I found myself wishing it would move along faster and/or slightly bored at times. This book definitely focuses heavily on characters, but the children’s journey was equally important to the plot (and sometimes, there wasn’t too much happening). I thought this would be a top 10 of the year but I just feel kind of lukewarm about it. I’m glad I read it, but I’m not going to shout about it from the rooftops or encourage you to go out of your way to read it. It’s well done but I didn’t LOVE it.
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This Tender Land – hard to describe, easy to fall in love with, a must read! Don’t let a 500 page book seem daunting to you, you wont want it to end! Although it is a coming of age story, this book has very adult issues reminding one of when they read The Odyssey, a true epic journey. Odie is a very relatable and reliable narrator and the words we so beautiful throughout the book, I cant wait for everyone to read it!
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This Tender Land is historical fiction at its best. Taking place during the Depression, it covers such topics as the separation of Native American children from their families in an effort to train them to blend in with the WASP culture of the country; the foreclosure of farms during the Depression; how the poor and dispossessed created encampments and shanty towns known as Hoovervilles, and other issues of that era.

The story is told by Odie, a not quite 13-year old, one of The Vagabonds, whose narration often takes on the wisdom/hindsight of his now more than 80-year-old self. His tale flows with beautifully descriptive phrases and characters that come to life in the telling. Here are two of Odie’s words of wisdom as the storyteller that he is:

    "I believe if you tell a story, it’s like sending a nightingale into the air with the hope that its song will never be forgotten."

    "Far better, I believe, to be like children and open ourselves to every beautiful possibility, for there is nothing our hearts can imagine that is not so."

This Tender Land is a story whose song will not soon be forgotten. Well worth reading.
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This a wonderful and sweeping piece of historical fiction. In fact, the breadth of this work is so wide that you could easily place it in several genres. There are pieces of mystery, suspense, and magical realism. Krueger clearly did his research to write this book as it is intricately detailed and paints a clear picture of both the story and the historical aspects that surround it. It is just fantastic.

The characters Krueger creates are luminous and incredibly well developed. There are, admittedly, a few of the more primary characters who are not painted in such detailed strokes, but overall they are a collection of colorful, imaginative, and dynamic individuals with clear personalities. They are woven together in both major and minor storylines in a way that just seems masterful. The more I sit and think about this piece, the more I am enamored by it.

That being said, this is not a joyful romp. True, there are moments of frivolity and enjoyment, but overall I found this to be a piece based on sadness, melancholy, and pieces of history that are both depressing and embarrassing. The story is set in the height of the Great Depression, with portraits of humanity at their most desperate or in the depths of despair. There is also a focus on the ill treatment of Native Americans in America's past, with particular regard to the establishment and existence of Indian boarding schools and the massacre of 38 Native Americans, the largest mass execution in American history, via hanging in Mankato, MN following the Dakota War of 1862. Krueger writes about all of these events with respect and with a well-found knowledge. As mentioned earlier, his research for this book was certainly not lacking.

The writing, it goes without saying, is superb. I was hooked within mere pages and I didn't want to put this one down. Though it nears 500 pages, I finished it over the course of four days, reading well into the night on at least two of those occasions. I highly recommend this one for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It is beautiful and wonderful and tells tales that need to be told.
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Such a sweet story - with dimensional characters and a propulsive plot, I was rooting for these kids with my whole heart! The writing was gorgeous, almost lyrical, and I found myself constantly writing down various quotes as I read. I loved Ordinary Grace, the author's previous work, and this next book was just as good, if not better.  Highly recommended!
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