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Book Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

29 Jun

For fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing, a magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times 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.

Publication date Sept. 3: Pre-order on Amazon

My Review

I chose to review this book after requesting a free advanced reading copy. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

It’s been a while since I read historical fiction even though it’s one of my favorite genres. The description of This Tender Land caught my eye, and I had a feeling I’d like it. I didn’t just like it. I thought it was amazing.

The story takes places in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Odie and his brother are orphans and living in a school for Indians even though they obviously are not Indians. The school has a good reputation, but its conditions are deplorable. Eventually, they have to run away with Mose, another student, and Emmy, a young neighbor girl who has just been orphaned. The situation is getting worse for Odie but, more importantly, they feel they have to save Emmy from the superintendent whose nickname is appropriately the Black Witch.

The four children head from Lincoln, Nebraska, to St. Louis by river. Although the story sounds a bit like Huck Finn, there’s a lot more to it. They have an adventure of a lifetime and they all grow and change and learn a lot about themselves. After the children went through so much, I was wondering if the ending would be gratifying. Absolutely!

Not only is This Tender Land a good tale, but the author’s descriptions are so good that I could picture everything the children encountered as they went down the river in the canoe: the revival tent, the people, the shanty towns, and so much more. I also appreciated the research that the author did about our history, not only in the 1930s but about the Sioux.

This is the first book that I’ve read by William Kent Krueger but it definitely won’t be the last.

About the Author

Raised in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, William Kent Krueger briefly attended Stanford University—before being kicked out for radical activities. After that, he logged timber, worked construction, tried his hand at freelance journalism, and eventually ended up researching child development at the University of Minnesota. He currently makes his living as a full-time author. He’s been married for over 40 years to a marvelous woman who is an attorney. He makes his home in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves.

Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe. His work has received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, and the Friends of American Writers Prize. His last five novels were all New York Times bestsellers.

Website: http://www.williamkentkrueger.com/
Twitter: WmKentKrueger

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