Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Title: This Tender Land
Author: William Kent Krueger
Published: September 2019, Atria Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 464 pages
Source: Publisher

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.

My thoughts:  I was fortunate to pick this gem up at BookExpo this past Spring and even had the pleasure of meeting William Kent Krueger briefly while getting my book signed. This is the first book I've read of his, though it certainly will not be the last.

I absolutely loved this book and while it is quite a chunkster, coming in at close to 500 pages, I flew through it, finding myself completely captivated by the story and wanting to just spend time with these characters. And yet, when it was done, I was not ready to leave them...I wanted more!

This is a hard review to write because I know my words will not do the justice this book deserves. William Kent Krueger is a masterful storyteller, much like our narrator in the story, Odie is. And I loved how every now and again, Odie would tell stories to his friends.

This book is captivating right from the start. These four orphans - Odie, Albert, Mose, and Emmy - will steal your heart and I think you will be hard-pressed to forget them any time soon. Their journey away from a horrible existence at the Lincoln School during the summer of 1932 is full of many adventures - some good and some bad, and they meet quite the colorful cast of characters along the way. While their journey is a short one - just one summer - each of the characters change as they yearn to find a home where they will be loved. They also learn that family is not always the one you are born into. 

These four orphans are characters you will come to care deeply about as you delve deeper into the book. They are written with such depth that you can't help but root for them as they face each obstacle and hardship on their journey. There were so many times I had tears in my eyes and my heart was broken for these characters, only for it to soar soon after. Even the characters the orphans meet on their journey are well-developed.

William Kent Krueger has given us a view of America during the Great Depression, an era I have not read much about. The writing is so vivid and in his author's note, he indicates the extensive research he did for this novel which is clearly evident. I will be recommending this book to all my reading friends and family - this is not a book to be missed! And I will definitely be checking out William Kent Krueger's previous works.

“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



  1. This sounds like such a moving story! I love when authors are able to write characters that capture your heart. Great review!

  2. I picked this one as my BOTM pick and I am so excited about it! Great review!

  3. I read a book by this author years and years ago but for some reason never went back to him. Sounds like it is definitely time to move his books up the TBR - especially this one!


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