“If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love This Tender Land...This story is as big-hearted as they come.” —Parade
A magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the 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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Read an Excerpt
This Tender Land
ALBERT NAMED THE rat. He called it Faria.
It was an old creature, a mottle of gray and white fur. Almost always, it kept to the edges of the tiny cell, scurrying along the wall to a corner where I’d put a few crumbs of the hard biscuit that had been my meal. At night, I generally couldn’t see it but could still hear the soft rustle as it moved from the wide crack between the corner blocks, across the straw on the floor, grabbed the crumbs, and returned the way it had come. Whenever the moon was just right and bright beams streamed through the high, narrow slit that was the only window, illuminating the stones of the eastern wall, I was sometimes able to glimpse in the reflected light the slender oval of Faria’s body, its fur a dim silver blur, its thin tail roping behind like an afterthought of the animal’s creation.
The first time I got thrown into what the Brickmans called the quiet room, they tossed my older brother, Albert, in with me. The night was moonless, the tiny cell as black as pitch, our bed a thin matting of straw laid on the dirt floor, the door a great rectangle of rusted iron with a slot at the bottom for the delivery of a food plate that never held more than that one hard biscuit. I was scared to death. Later, Benny Blackwell, a Sioux from Rosebud, told us that when the Lincoln Indian Training School had been a military outpost called Fort Sibley, the quiet room had been used for solitary confinement. In those days, it had held warriors. By the time Albert and I got there, it held only children.
I didn’t know anything about rats then, except for the story about the Pied Piper of Hamelin, who’d rid the town of the vermin. I thought they were filthy creatures and would eat anything and maybe would even eat us. 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. So Albert had named the rat, because a name made it not just any rat. When I asked why Faria, he said it was from a book, The Count of Monte Cristo. Albert loved to read. Me, I liked to make up my own stories. Whenever I was thrown into the quiet room, I fed Faria crumbs and imagined tales about him. I looked up rats in the worn Encyclopaedia Britannica on the school library shelf and discovered that they were smart and social. Across the years and the many nights I spent in the isolation of the quiet room, I came to think of the little creature as a friend. Faria. Rat extraordinaire. Companion to misfits. A fellow captive in the dark prison of the Brickmans.
That first night in the quiet room, Albert and I were being punished for contradicting Mrs. Thelma Brickman, the school’s superintendent. Albert was twelve and I was eight. We were both new to Lincoln School. After the evening meal, which had been a watery, tasteless stew containing only a few bits of carrot, potato, something green and slimy, and a little ham gristle, Mrs. Brickman had sat at the front of the great dining hall and told all the children a story. Most dinner meals were followed by one of Mrs. Brickman’s stories. They usually contained some moral lesson she believed was important. Afterward, she would ask if there were any questions. This was a conceit, I came to understand, to make it seem as if there were an actual opportunity for dialogue with her, for the kind of conversation that might exist between a reasonable adult and a reasonable child. That evening, she’d related the story of the race between the tortoise and the hare. When she asked if there were any questions, I’d raised my hand. She’d smiled and had called on me.
She knew my name. I’d been thrilled at that. Amid the sea of children, so many that I didn’t believe I would ever be able to learn all their names, she’d remembered mine. I’d wondered if maybe this was because we were so new or if it was because we were the whitest faces in a vast room full of Indian children.
“Mrs. Brickman, you said the point of the story was that being lazy is a terrible thing.”
“That’s true, Odie.”
“I thought the point of the story was that slow and steady wins the race.”
“I see no difference.” Her voice was stern, but not harsh, not yet.
“My father read that story to me, Mrs. Brickman. It’s one of Aesop’s fables. And he said—”
“He said?” Now there was something different in the way she spoke. As if she were struggling to cough up a fish bone caught in her throat. “He said?” She’d been sitting on a stool that raised her up so everyone in the dining hall could see her. She slid from the stool and walked between the long tables, girls on one side, boys on the other, toward where I sat with Albert. In the absolute silence of that great room, I could hear the squeak, squeak of her rubber heels on the old floorboards as she came. The boy next to me, whose name I didn’t yet know, edged away, as if trying to distance himself from a place where he knew lightning was about to strike. I glanced at Albert, and he shook his head, a sign that I should just clam up.
Mrs. Brickman stood over me. “He said?”
“Y-y-yes, ma’am,” I replied, stuttering but no less respectful.
“And where is he?”
“Y-y-you know, Mrs. Brickman.”
“Dead, that’s where. He is no longer present to read you stories. The stories you hear now are the ones I tell you. And they mean just what I say they mean. Do you understand me?”
“I . . . I . . .”
“Yes or no?”
She leaned toward me. She was slender, her face a delicate oval the color of a pearl. Her eyes were as green and sharp as new thorns on a rosebush. She wore her black hair long, and kept it brushed as soft as cat fur. She smelled of talcum and faintly of whiskey, an aromatic mix I would come to know well over the years.
“Yes,” I said in the smallest voice I’d ever heard come from my own lips.
“He meant no disrespect, ma’am,” Albert said.
“Was I talking to you?” The green thorns of her eyes stabbed at my brother.
She straightened herself and scanned the room. “Any other questions?”
I’d thought—hoped, prayed—this was the end of it. But that night, Mr. Brickman came to the dormitory room and called me out, and Albert, too. The man was tall and lean, and also handsome, many of the women at the school said, but all I saw was the fact that his eyes were nothing but black pupils, and he reminded me of a snake with legs.
“You boys’ll be sleeping somewhere else tonight,” he said. “Come along.”
That first night in the quiet room, I barely slept a wink. It was April, and there was still a chill in the wind sweeping out of the empty Dakotas. Our father was less than a week dead. Our mother had passed away two years before that. We had no kin in Minnesota, no friends, no one who knew us or cared about us. We were the only white boys in a school for Indians. How could it get any worse? Then I’d heard the rat and had spent the rest of those long, dark hours until daylight pressed against Albert and the iron door, my knees drawn up to my chin, my eyes pouring out tears that only Albert could see and that no one but him would have cared about anyway.
FOUR YEARS HAD passed between that first night and the one I’d just spent in the quiet room. I’d grown some, changed some. The old, frightened Odie O’Banion was, like my mother and father, long dead. The Odie I was now had a penchant for rebellion.
When I heard the key turn in the lock, I sat up on the straw matting. The iron door swung open and morning light poured in, blinding me for a moment.
“Sentence is up, Odie.”
Although I couldn’t see the contours of the face yet, I recognized the voice easily: Herman Volz, the old German who oversaw the carpentry shop and was the assistant boys’ adviser. The man stood in the doorway, blocking for a moment the glare of the sun. He looked down at me through thick eyeglasses, his pale features soft and wistful.
“She wants to see you,” he said. “I have to take you.”
Volz spoke with a German accent, so his w’s sounded like v’s and his v’s like f’s. What he’d said came out, “She vants to see you. I haf to take you.”
I stood, folded the thin blanket, and hung it across a rod attached to the wall so that it would be available for the next child who occupied the room, knowing that, like as not, it would be me again.
Volz shut the door behind us. “Did you sleep okay? How is your back?”
Often a strapping preceded time in the quiet room, and last night had been no exception. My back ached from the welts, but it did no good to talk about it.
“I dreamed about my mother,” I said.
“Did you now?”
The quiet room was the last in a row of rooms in a long building that had once been the outpost stockade. The other rooms—all originally cells—had been turned into storage spaces. Volz and I walked along the old stockade and across the yard toward the administration building, a two-story structure of red stone set among stately elms that had been planted by the first commandant of Fort Sibley. The trees provided the building with constant shade, which always made it a dark place.
“Pleasant dream, then?” Volz said.
“She was in a rowboat on a river. I was in a boat, too, trying to catch up with her, trying to see her face. But no matter how hard I rowed, she was always too far ahead.”
“Don’t sound like a good dream,” Volz said. He was wearing clean bib overalls over a blue work shirt. His huge hands, nicked and scarred from his carpentry, hung at his sides. Half of the little finger on his right hand was missing, the result of an accident with a band saw. Behind his back, some of the kids called him Old Four-and-a-Half, but not me or Albert. The German carpenter had always been kind to us.
We entered the building and went immediately to Mrs. Brickman’s office, where she was seated behind her big desk, a stone fireplace at her back. I was a little surprised to see Albert there. He stood straight and tall beside her like a soldier at attention. His face was blank, but his eyes spoke to me. They said, Careful, Odie.
“Thank you, Mr. Volz,” the superintendent said. “You may wait outside.”
As he turned to leave, Volz put a hand on my shoulder, the briefest of gestures, but I appreciated what it meant.
Mrs. Brickman said, “I’m concerned about you, Odie. I’m beginning to believe that your time at Lincoln School is almost at an end.”
I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I didn’t think it was necessarily a bad thing.
The superintendent wore a black dress, which seemed to be her favorite color. I’d overheard Miss Stratton, who taught music, tell another teacher once that it was because Mrs. Brickman was obsessed with her appearance and thought black was slimming. It worked pretty well, because the superintendent reminded me of nothing so much as the long, slender handle of a fireplace poker. Her penchant for the color gave rise to a nickname we all used, well out of her hearing, of course: the Black Witch.
“Do you know what I’m saying, Odie?”
“I’m not sure, ma’am.”
“Even though you’re not Indian, the sheriff asked us to accept you and your brother because there was no room at the state orphanage. And we did, out of the goodness of our hearts. But there’s another option for a boy like you, Odie. Reformatory. Do you know what that is?”
“I do, ma’am.”
“And is that where you would like to be sent?”
“I thought not. Then, Odie, what will you do?”
“I will do nothing that will get me sent there, ma’am.”
She put her hands on her desk, one atop the other, and spread her fingers wide so that they formed a kind of web over the polished wood. She smiled at me as if she were a spider who’d just snagged a fly. “Good,” she said. “Good.” She nodded toward Albert. “You should be more like your brother.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll try. May I have my harmonica back?”
“It’s very special to you, isn’t it?”
“Not really. Just an old harmonica. I like to play. It keeps me out of trouble.”
“A gift from your father, I believe.”
“No, ma’am. I just picked it up somewhere. I don’t even remember where now.”
“That’s funny,” she said. “Albert told me it was a gift from your father.”
“See?” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “Not even special enough to remember where I got it.”
She considered me, then said, “Very well.” She took a key from a pocket of her dress, unlocked a drawer of the desk, and pulled out the harmonica.
I reached for it, but she drew it back.
“Next time, I keep it for good. Do you understand?”
“Yes, ma’am. I do.”
She gave it over and her spindly fingers touched my hand. When I returned to the dormitory, I intended to use the lye soap in the lavatory there to scrub that hand until it bled.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for This Tender Land includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
In Minnesota, in the summer of 1932, on the banks of the Gilead River, the Lincoln Indian Training School is a pitiless place where Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to Odie O’Banion, a lively orphan boy whose exploits constantly earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Odie and his brother, Albert, are the only white faces among the hundreds of Native American children at the school.
After committing a terrible crime, Odie and Albert are forced to flee for their lives along with their best friend, Mose, a mute young man of Sioux heritage. Out of pity, they also take with them a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy. Together, they steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi in search of a place to call home. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphan vagabonds journey into the unknown, crossing paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Although Odie and Albert find themselves in a boarding school for Native American children, most of the Native children don’t actually speak in the story. The Native character whom readers get to know best is Mose, and he is mute and “speaks” only through sign language. Why do you think the author chose silence as a way of depicting the children at the school?
2. Trying to understand the nature of God is one of the many struggles for Odie during his experiences in the summer of 1932. Is Odie the only one struggling with this issue? What sense do you have concerning the way the other vagabonds feel about the nature of God? What about the people they meet on their travels? How does Odie’s relationship with God change over the course of his journey?
3. When Odie and Albert attempt to buy boots, the clerk is skeptical that Albert and Odie would be able to afford the $5 price tag. After Odie lies about getting the money from their father, a second clerk remarks, “If he got a job these days, he’s one of the lucky ones.” This is Odie and Albert’s first experience of life outside of the Lincoln School. What sense of the current state of the world do you get from this encounter?
4. When Odie is working for Jack in his orchard, Jack explain his religious philosophy, saying, “God all penned up under a roof? I don’t think so.” Where does Jack think God is really to be found? What is it in Odie’s experience that makes him disagree with Jack’s outlook?
5. After having escaped Jack, the vagabonds encounter a Native American man named Forrest. He appears friendly and shares a meal with them, but he’s also aware that there is a $500 reward for their capture—a huge amount of money at the time. The children are unsure whether to trust him or not. What would you do in their situation?
6. Tent revivals—places where Christians would gather to hear religious leaders speak—were common in the Great Depression, often traveling across the country from town to town. They offered hope to people in desperate times, as Sister Eve does to Odie, Albert, Emmy, and Mose. However, Albert is skeptical of Sister Eve’s healings, calling her a con. What do you believe about Sister Eve’s ability to heal? What is the con that Albert is warning Odie about?
7. Why does Odie trust Sister Eve so wholeheartedly, but not her partner, Sid? Do you think he’s right to draw the conclusions he does about Sid from their interactions? How do some of Odie’s misjudgments lead to disastrous consequences? In your opinion, is what happens to Albert in some way Odie’s fault?
8. When the vagabonds encounter the skeleton of a Native American boy, Albert says there’s nothing they can do, but Mose reacts very differently. Later, he wanders off from the group to learn about the Dakota Conflict of 1862, which resulted in the execution of thirty-eight Sioux and the deaths of hundreds more. How does knowledge of this history change how Mose perceives himself? What impact does hearing this story have on Odie? On you?
9. Hoovervilles (named for President Herbert Hoover) were shantytowns that sprang up all across America during the Great Depression for homeless individuals and families. In difficult times like this, how do people like the Schofields survive? Is there an expectation that the government will help them, or do they look to other sources for assistance? How do the residents of this particular Hooverville pull together? How are they driven apart?
10. The Flats is like no other place the vagabonds have been on their journey. What makes it so unusual? When John Kelly is stopped by a policeman, why does he feel he has to say he is from a different part of town? Despite making a new friend, why is Odie so unhappy during the time he spends there?
11. When Odie is on his own, riding the rails, trying to get to St. Louis, he comes face to face with danger and violence. Do you think he was foolish for striking out alone? How was this encounter different from the things he experienced at Lincoln School?
12. Odie is a born storyteller even at his young age. Throughout the book he tells Albert, Emmy, and Mose tales about an imp, a princess, and the vagabonds. What purpose do these stories serve in the novel?
13. Sister Eve says to Odie that the only prayer she knows will absolutely be answered is a prayer for forgiveness. What do you think she means by this? Who are the people whom Odie needs to forgive, and for what reasons?
14. Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy are all searching for peace and a place to call home. What do you think each character is looking for and what are their different definitions of home? In the end, do they all find what they are looking for, and if so how?
15. The author has said that he drew inspiration from the works of Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Homer. Do you find elements of works by those authors in This Tender Land? Why or why not? Are there other authors whose work this story calls to mind?
16. In the story, Odie speaks of the journey he and the other are on as an odyssey. Do you see echoes of Homer’s epic poem in the children’s experiences? If so, can you identify Homer’s poetic counterpart for each section of the story?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. For your next book club gathering, plan to meet somewhere outdoors and go on an adventure whether by foot or canoe. Discuss with your group what you notice about the landscape around you. How is the Midwestern landscape a part of Odie’s story and what connections to This Tender Land can you make to your own life and the place that you live?
2. Download the This Tender Land Spotify playlist and listen to some of the songs with your group. Discuss your favorite scenes in the book that feature music and how it changes your reading experience to hear the songs alongside them. Do you think the songs enhance the story? How?
3. Similar books about coming of age over one season like The Body by Stephen King and This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff have been adapted to the big screen. (The film based on The Body was titled Stand by Me.) If This Tender Land were turned into a film, which actors would you want to play the main characters (Odie, Sister Eve, Mrs. Brickman, et al.)? What scenes from the book would you most like to see on the big screen?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a fascinating story. I was born in 1931 and the author brought back many memories from my own childhood growing up in Minnesota. Thank you for the great adventure that comes with reading this marvelous book.
I absolutely loved this book! It had my attention from page 1 all the way to the very end. I never wanted it to end. I was so invested and intrigued by the characters and the plot. Fantastic read. Must read!
I. Love how descriptive This tender land is. I can actually see each place described in the book. The story itself kept me wanting to keep turning each page.
I have to say that I am in awe. William Kent Krueger's book Ordinary Grace was a masterpiece in writing, and it's hard to believe that an author could create another. However, This Tender Land is exactly that: a beautiful work of art. Krueger's sensory descriptions make us live the journey with the Four Vagabonds. It's easy to fall in love with Odie, Emmy, Mose and Albert and root for them to win. I love how their quest is really about many things: the search for self, family and God. The resolutions to all are not simple yet we are satisfied with the answers given. I will miss Odie and his storytelling and all of the characters we come to know and love in this novel. Treat yourself to this book!
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.
I could not put this book down and read it within three days. What a fabulous book and love how it's written. I will definitely read other books by this author.
Best book I've read in a long time. I couldn't stop reading but didn't want the story to end! Loved the protagonists, loved the setting, loved the author's writing style.
I really loved this book,
All the praise being heaped on this book is well-earned. It is a newer version of Huck Finn, with 4 travelers instead of 2 and a canoe instead of a raft, but if that evaluation scares you, just ignore it. Instead, believe that this modern classic is a beautiful, descriptive, visual, heartfelt saga of 3 boys and 1 girl trying to escape a tragic existence by navigating rivers and meeting various people while searching for a forever home in the summer of 1932. This is the first time that I have read this author but I will read him again. He tells a massive story in manageable sections, creates vivid characters both good and bad, and draws detailed environments that placed me right in the story with the kids. Outstanding!
Very touching and nostalgic look at growing up without parents. Presents both the worst and best in humanity.
An eye-opening look at a time of great strife: the Great Depression. The characters and setting are real standouts. Highly recommended read.
This is one great book! It is about these 4 children that are canoeing down the Missippi, trying to find family and their:"roots". The author has made this into such an exciting trip. This is one book you do not want to miss reading. The ending will blow you away.
While interlaced with an air of suspense, This Tender Land is first and foremost a character-driven novel. The story-line carries readers through the personalities of its characters, drawing on relationships and connections, just as much as it does actions. As a character study, the members of this bunch of runaways are intricate, distinct and they feel like individuals you may encounter just about anywhere. Odie is a delightful narrator, whose voice is sometimes contemplative, sometimes humourous. He serves as a historian, filling the reader in on the individuals he encounters. I found him to be complex and determined, often in good but occasionally in confusing ways. Mose was no easier to understand; he was a walking enigma, a fact which fed into the mystery surrounding his person. Yet his charisma connects him not only with every member of the troop, but also to the reader. Albert was another wonderful character, although at times I found his personality and attitude at odds with his age, he seemed so wise beyond his years. The other members of the story were engaging yet banal, as they felt like authentic snapshots from mid-west America. In all things, this book is written in the most lovely prose. I found myself captivated by the voice, lyricism, metaphor, and so on, and dwelt in the essence of the writing itself. The book was engaging due to the way it was written. This was perhaps my favorite element of the book; it’s always wonderful to be gifted with excellent literary quality. This Tender Land is an elegant tale filled with beautiful writing that captures a perfect image of the imperfect America during the depression. While largely focused on depicting individuals, the story also divulges into the magical and mysterious--for better or for worse. I recommend this book highly to those who enjoy literary fiction and books with excellent written language, as well as those who can appreciate a little magic thrown in.
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.
Being a fan of William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor mystery series I was anxious to see what he would do with another stand alone novel. I wasn't disappointed. Somewhat inspired by Huckleberry Finn, this youthful adventure on the Mississippi river had amazing characters, a well paced plot and some interesting surprises. Highly Recommended
Four orphans fleeing from terrible conditions at the Lincoln Indian Training School and its horrible headmistress. They set off in a canoe down the Gilead River hoping to reach St. Louis and Aunt Julia and maybe, just maybe, they’ll finally find home. Their journey will take them places they’ve never seen before and open their eyes and hearts to a world they didn’t know existed. Odie is a wonderful narrator and tells an amazing story. He is just one of many great characters in the book. And the adventures they have are incredible. Each of the four is looking for something different, something deeply personal. This heartwarming coming-of-age story is about family and hope and discovering their true selves. One of the best books I’ve read this year, and all I can say is, it is an excellent read, one you won’t want to miss.
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. https://mamasgottaread.blogspot.com/
Wow, you won't want to put this one down. You will get mad at the characters and then you'll be happy for them. But I guess you'll be identifying with Odie and sympathizing with him as well as cheering him on. Very insightful into the mind of a thirteen year old (almost). I would like to follow him on in his life. 5 stars because they don't have any more.
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! Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
Books that are simply written often tell a wondrous tale. They don't need gimmicks because the writing shines through and takes a reader on a journey that is moving, loving, and ever so worthwhile reading. This Tender Land is one of those books. “Ask me, God’s right here. In the dirt, the rain, the sky, the trees, the apples, the stars in the cottonwoods. In you and me, too. It’s all connected and it’s all God. 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." Life has always been hard for those children left behind when their parents perished and they were left orphans with no one to care for them. For the brothers Odie, who is our guide in this story, and Robert, placed into an Indian school for orphans as the only two white boys, life is ever so difficult. It's 1932, the depression is in full swing, and these children are burdened with a horrible director, Mrs. Brickman at the Lincoln School. There are others at the school a mixture of good and bad people, and as the brothers and their companions make a choice to escape they take Mose, a Native American mute boy, and Emmy, a newly acquired addition to the school with them as they travel through small towns making their way down the river searching for many things, family, connections, and peace. There are the good and the bad in this story and this group of four children discover these people in the small towns along the river they travel. Odie finds his battle with religion, a god he knows as vengeful and cruel, changes as they travel further towards their destination. There are so many difficulties along the way. Mrs Brickman, hiding a terrible secret, pursues the group, and others looking to capture the reward offered for Emmy, befriend the group in the hopes of attaining this reward. They meet a charismatic woman traveling from small town to town preaching religion, laying down hands, and seeming to cure people. Odie and the other children, except for Robert, come to trust this woman, and Odie does learn that God is not vengeful, and that life is often a series of obstacles that one overcomes through a faith in the almighty. Told with beautiful simple prose and images so vivid, this book is heartily recommended to those who so enjoy a simple story told in an eloquent manner. Thanks to William Kent Krueger, Atria Books, and Net Galley for a copy of this book due out in early September.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of This Tender Land! I can't recommend it enough. This Tender Land is a story about family, hope, belief, and growing up during one summer in 1932. With the backdrop of the Great Depression and unspeakable treatment of Native Americans, we journey with Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy, four orphans in search of home and new life. I was captivated at the start with Odie's declaration that he is a storyteller and God's final gift to us was stories. What a story Odie tells! Reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn with many other literary allusions, the story takes our four heroes from their frightful existence at the fictional Lincoln Indian Training School on a search for home and a place to belong. They encounter numerous obstacles and stay barely one step ahead of the Black Witch while meeting all sorts of people along the way. They must decide if these people can be trusted and if they can find a place to belong in each new place. Sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes inspiring, each encounter tests their faith and bond with each other as they follow the network of rivers to the Mississippi. Surprises along the way introduce historic details about the time period, and finally bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. I loved every part of this story and appreciated the author's note at the end explaining his inspiration. Thank you William Kent Kruger for Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy and their heartfelt story.
If you only read one book this year (an absurd idea) then pick this one. It is simply magnificent and brought me to my knees. It is, by far, the best book I have read this year and I think it is destined to be a modern classic. It is a deceptively simple story. The author calls it a retelling of [book:The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn|2956] with a tribute to Sinclair Lewis but I see an homage to [book:To Kill a Mockingbird|2657] in it. It is set in Minnesota during the Great Depression. Two brothers are sent to one of the infamous Native American schools when they are orphaned even though they are white. Here the Native Americans are turned into "men" by depriving them of their language, their clothes and their customs, in one of our most shameful chapters in our history. There they make friends with Moses, a Sioux, who is found by his murdered mother's body with his tongue cut out at a very young age. In spite of horrific conditions they are befriended by several faculty members including the widowed home economics teacher with a 6 year old daughter, Emmy. Events occur that force the three boys and Emmy to flee in a canoe down the Gilead River headed for St. Louis. They are pursued by the evil head of the school known as the Black Witch. The story is told by 80 something Odie remembering back to that time. Odie is the youngest boy at 12 and he recounts the adventures they had both good and bad. He also struggles with his vision of God that he calls a Tornado God. The people he meets make such lasting impressions and teach such life lessons. I don't want to go into detail and spoil the surprises and delights. The young boys learn what kind of people they will be. Will they help others? Will they turn bitter or defeated? What kind of choices will they make? It reminds me of Scout when she is faced with injustice and the choices she must make. Injustice is everywhere. It's not only the Native Americans but in a terrific chapter set in St. Paul it's the Irish cops against the Jewish population. The backdrop of the Depression really makes the story sing. My parents grew up in the Great Depression and those stories still resonate with me. In this story it talks about the people who live in villages called Hoovervilles named after President Hoover that are made of cardboard with tin roofs. There the homeless and the foreclosed cast offs join together to survive. It is in one of those towns that Odie finds his first love. Odie ends the story by saying, "In every good tale there is a seed of truth, and from that seed a lovely story grows. Some of what I've told you is true and some ... well, let's just call it the bloom on the rosebush." It's the perfect ending to a perfect book. Please do yourself a favor and read this. My thanks to Netgalley, Atria Books and mostly to William Kent Krueger.
This book is amazing..... I did need kleenex as I read parts of this book... It is a great tale of what people went through... It took me two days to read and that should tell you how good it was.... I just couldn't put it down. I love William Kent Krueger's Corcoran O'Connor series and didn't think anything could compare... Well Kent you did it.... Now ready for another amazing book from you!!!
SO. DAMN. GOOD. "Of all that we're asked to give others in this life, the most difficult to offer may be forgiveness." It all begins in HELL and some of what's told here is true. "What happened in the summer of 1932 is most important to those who experienced it, and there are not many of us left." Odie O'Banion's life actually began in the Missouri Ozark country, but now orphaned in Minnesota, he and older brother Albert need a miracle to get out of Lincoln School, the only white boys in a school for indian children. Odie is a tough little ingenious fellow who plays a mean harmonica, tells a great story, and always....always seems to cause trouble resulting in yet another visit to the cell...better known as the quiet room. But don't let the name fool you, it's not so quiet when DiMarco shows up to do Thelma the black-hearted witches' bidding. Whenever there seems to be a ray of hope for Odie and Albert to escape a horrendous work assignment or the wrath of the witch, disaster or tragedy shows its ugly face. But one day, after a fierce tornado....and another failed plan, Odie, Albert, friend Mose, a Sioux Indian and little gifted Emmy find themselves on the run and wanted by authorities....for much more than just escape from the horrors of the school. Taking the canoe down the Gilead toward the Mississippi and their new destination is a dangerous journey wrought with many perils, so many they meet desperate and struggling to survive making life scary for the youngsters....and it's not just humans who are looming....there's Lucifer. THIS TENDER LAND is a wonderful coming-of-age adventure, a story of hard times, and hopefulness that carries a religious undertone with children that seem wise and capable beyond their years, but also make poor, life threatening decisions as they venture forward toward their dreams for a better future. As with Krueger's ORDINARY GRACE, another winner for this reader! ***What a memorable novel to have as my 200th NetGalley read! Arc provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review***
I’d give this one more than five stars if I could. I am a huge fan of Willian Kent Krueger and absolutely loved Ordinary Grace. I wasn’t sure anything could top it. Well, hard to say if this is better, but it’s equally as good. WKK is just such an amazing writer. He’s got it all, well turned phrases, engaging plot, characters that draw you in immediately and feel so real you’re convinced you’ve met them. “Home is where the heart is.” And Odie, Albert, Moses and Emmy are all looking for their own versions of home. Odie, Albert and Moses are all orphans at the start of the book and never really had homes. Emmy loses her mother in a freak accident. When they’re all forced to flee, they take to the river. Told over the course of one summer, the book paints a perfect picture of the 1932 Midwest - farmers desperate to survive, faith healers, folks living in Hoovervilles. This book tugs at your heart. I will admit to crying more than once. It deals with loss in so many forms, but also the faith to survive and move forward and the need to forgive. “Of all that we’re asked to give others in this life, the most difficult to offer may be forgiveness.” This book seems destined to be a modern day classic. WKK cites Twain, Homer, Sinclair Lewis and Dickens as sources of inspiration. He has done an inordinate amount of research, which he outlines in his Author’s Note. But as he also states, “the river voyage upon which Odie O’Banion and his fellow Vagabonds embark in the summer of 1932 is a mythic journey.” Or as Odie says at the end of the book, “in every good tale there is a seed of truth, and from that seed a lovely story grows. Some of what I’ve told you is true and some...well, let’s just call it the bloom on the rose bush.” Run, don’t walk, to buy this one as soon as it becomes available. I truly can’t tout it enough. A huge thank you to netgalley and Atria Books for an advance copy of this book.