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The Tender Land: A Family Love Story

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  251 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
A superb portrait of family life, THE TENDER LAND is a love story unlike any other. The Finnerans -- parents and five children, Irish Catholics in St. Louis -- are a seemingly unexceptional family. Theirs is a story seldom told, yet it makes manifest how rich and truly extraordinary the ordinary daily experience we take for granted is. In quietly luminous language, ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 11th 2003 by Mariner Books (first published 2000)
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(showing 1-30)
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Though The Tender Land revolves around the saddening suicide of Kathleen Finneran's younger brother, she still imbues this memoir with the utmost love and caring. A lot of memoirists aim to expose or shock or scandalize; Finneran, on the other hand, examines her Irish Catholic family with deep empathy and compassion. She details her large family - her two parents and four siblings - both before and after Sean's death at 15. Through writing this moving saga, she illuminates the resilience and the ...more
Apr 26, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing
The telling of this terrible and sweet story is so effortless and seamless; I can't imagine a revision here. Past and present tumble out of Finneran with grace and honesty. Several times during the course of reading it, I felt such sudden gasps and heartbreak, I simply had to put the book down for a moment before continuing. Many scenes will stay with me, I know, and sharply. Oh, and the title is perfect.
Jun 05, 2008 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Frank Kovarik
What an absolutely gorgeous collection of writings. Centered entirely around the past suicide of her teenager brother, the golden child of her Irish-Catholic family, Finneran beautifully blends past triumphs and desolations with her present vacillating attitudes toward life and her immutable struggle to find contentment and acceptance, if not happiness. In Finneran's world, not only is the past inextricably linked with the present, but so is the yearning for life with the ever-present hand of ...more
Aug 03, 2009 Zoe rated it really liked it
This book hit home for me, as I could relate somewhat with what this family was going through.

A memoir centering around the suicide of Kathleen Finneran's brother when he was fifteen, the book explores the family dynamic as well as a contemplative journey into the meaning and beauty of life.

It is beautifully written, moving me to both laughter and tears multiple times. It was (surprise, surprise) emotionally draining as I read it almost in one sitting. I felt as if I was going through the orde
Oct 30, 2010 Stacy rated it really liked it
As a teenager, the author's brother committed suicide. This book is the story of the family before and after that tragic event. It is told through a series of vignettes, each focusing on different family members or aspects of family relations. Through it all, the author tries to find her own way in life.

The writing can be a little stream of consciousness at times, which I've never really enjoyed reading, but that was the only thing I didn't like about this book. The title says "A Family Love Sto
Stephanie Mundwiller
May 04, 2016 Stephanie Mundwiller rated it it was amazing
I think I took so long reading this because I could only take in small sections at a time. I am drained and raw; it was both a story too close to home and one somehow very much removed. In any case, it was wonderful.
Aug 21, 2007 Lara rated it it was amazing
Very powerful memoir. Resonated with me as another Catholic girl from North St Louis county, but I highly recommend it for anyone. Beautiful.
Aug 23, 2007 Anne rated it did not like it
Depressing and ultimately without a point.
Oct 23, 2011 Donna rated it it was amazing
This is undoubtedly the most touching memoir I've ever read. I felt the grief and loss of the author when her younger brother committed suicide. The details of his death are just tragic (he comes downstairs after and tells his mother in an attempt to live). I know how a death can just destroy a family. I have now lost two brothers. One when I was just born that I don't remember and one much later, but I know how the loss, self-inflicted or not (in my case not) can change the whole dynamic of a ...more
Jun 21, 2010 Donalee rated it it was amazing
This memoir is an homage to the author's family through the eyes of the middle child of 5. The suicide of her 15 year-old younger brother begins the author's introspection, search into memories of childhood and family, and understanding of how grief and love shape us all. This is a beautiful history, written with deep affection and honesty. I don't know if one has to have lost a loved but troubled sibling to "get" this book, but I certainly recognize the questioning, the guilt, the great sense ...more
Elizabeth Andrew
Nov 08, 2010 Elizabeth Andrew rated it really liked it
I found THE TENDER LAND a gorgeous and melancholic read. Finneran is deft at dream-like, associative writing that spirals around a central memory. Grief works this way, as does memory. While I occasionally wished Finneran would reach outside her small family story to bigger questions (for instance, what is it about our culture that contributes to teenage suicide? Or what role does faith play in teenage depression? Or in dealing with grief?), I still thoroughly enjoyed this memoir.
Dec 21, 2007 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps my favorite book of all time. This is the fifth time I've read it, and its beauty and humanity still bring me to tears.
Oct 11, 2016 Paula rated it it was ok
The Tender Land concerns the suicide, at age 15, of Kathleen Finneran’s beloved younger brother and how it affected her life and that of her devout Catholic family. The subtitle is “A Family Love Story”, and while it’s obvious that Finneran really does love her family, I found the book to be sadder than I expected. I certainly didn’t expect a funny book, but at the end, I wasn’t sure anyone in this family had learned from this tragedy, or gained any insight into themselves or each other. ...more
Nov 02, 2016 Meghan rated it it was amazing
This book broke my heart. I cried for the last fifty pages, and then cried for an hour or two afterwards. It is so, so beautiful--a portrait of love and family. Can't recommend this highly enough.
Oct 12, 2016 Jackie rated it it was amazing
Well fuck. This is definitely one of the best books I've read in a while. More later? Possibly, possibly not.
Lindsay Wolford
This book was deffanitaly not what i expected when picking it out. Overall I was neither thrilled nor did I hate this book. I wouldn't recommend it for fun because it it hard to follow. There are alot of family members that the author talks about but tends to stick to the main members in her family.
The reason she wrote this book is, in a way, to obtain closure. The author suffers from severe depression and when her brother committed suicide it sent her way into depression. At the end of her mem
Rhonda Rae Baker
This memoir was absolutely beautifully written. It could be my family, your family, any family...the heart of family and the dynamics between the members.

I was choked up and moved, encouraged and healed, from loss and misunderstanding to hope and comfort in family, this one will stay with me like no other memoir. It spoke to me about blood family and the ties that bind them together. Reminded me of my children, the first family of three and the second of two, when I had grown up with one siblin
Ellen Keim
Aug 30, 2014 Ellen Keim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the second time I read this book and I loved it just as much as the first time. It's a sensitively drawn portrait of a large Irish Catholic family after the suicide of one of the children. The author, who was 24 when her 15-year-old brother took an overdose of their father's heart medicine, is unflinchingly honest about her reactions and her relations with the other members of the family. This was written just as the market was beginning to be inundated with memoirs and I think got a ...more
Maureen Stanton
Jan 28, 2012 Maureen Stanton rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book in all ways, the writing, the sentiment, the story. Finneran portrays her family members with affection and honesty as she examines and grieves her younger brother's death by suicide. As a reader, we are brought into the family dynamics, not in a way that is intrusive, but instead respectful yet still intimate. By the end, I felt myself grieving, too, for the loss of a charming, curious, loving young man, while also astonished at how the ordinary moments of life can be ...more
Mar 28, 2015 Sonja rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book. Finneran can definitely write! Such a lovely memoir and tribute to her younger brother. She expresses everything so clearly and honestly. It is such a shame that so many individuals (myself included) have these feelings of inadequacy. And none of us should. We are all as important and worthy as the next person. It would be awful if everyone were exactly the same so our differences should be appreciated, not put down. Lots of lessons in life to learn and some ...more
Nov 14, 2010 Pat rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I think this book would be difficult for anyone in my family to read. Though the circumstances of death were different, we also lost a beloved brother at a much too early age. I already lived away from home during much of his illness, and because he wasn't part of my daily life, I could not miss him in the same way the rest of the family did. But my siblings who were still at home would probably identify with the intense pain, grief, and long-term loss described by the family in this book.

The re
Oct 21, 2008 Christen rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Christen by: Tanya
This book told a very sad, moving story of a family who deal with the suicide of one of their members. It did a great job of describing the complex relationships between the members of the family and how their individual lives were each affected by their realtionships with one another. I have a lot of favorite "quotes" from the book, but one that really stood out was, "If you got good grades, you could fall apart and no one would notice."
Jan 06, 2009 Cheryl rated it really liked it
It was hard to understand how a book about teenage suicide could be described as a 'family love story' and yet it is an apt description. Kathleen recounts her youngest brother's life and ultimate suicide in such a way that I felt he was my brother by the story's end. The WHY of his suicide is revealed in the last pages and makes the story all the more sad because of the reason. What a tragic loss on so many levels.
May 08, 2011 Janeene marked it as books-i-have-at-home-just-waiting-t
The author was part of yesterday's book cruise and I was fortunate to have lunch at her table. One of the other author's at Left Bank Books highly recommended her book to me (not her own book, this author's book - a true sign of a recommendation) so of course I bought it. Looking forward to reading it and also to having found a Missouri author I did not know about.
Nov 19, 2008 Amy rated it it was ok
Recommended to Amy by: Tanya
This was a book club pick, and definitely not one I would have picked up on my own. I was only able to read the first two chapters - the library had just one copy and I'm too cheap to buy books before I know I love them enough to keep them. What I did read was okay, and it did make for interesting discussion.
Dec 23, 2008 Lydia rated it really liked it
Initially I didn't like this book because it's a bit slow to start and made me cry too many times by the end. But it haunts me: the narrator's personality, the love this very "average" American family manifests for each of its members, and the loss of its most innocent member, almost accidentally. Makes me want a bigger family.
Feb 07, 2013 Mlg rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-1
The author's brother committed suicide at the age of 15 and she recounts the story of her family and their battle with depression.
While a sad event, the family is so normal and their story so unremarkable that it seemed kind of boring to me.
Anne Putnam
Nov 14, 2014 Anne Putnam rated it it was amazing
This book is heartbreakingly sad but beautifully written. My mother and sister, both of whom I recommended it to, couldn't finish it because it was too sad, but I wanted to underline every other word. So, take that as you will!
Christina Mortellaro
Sep 18, 2016 Christina Mortellaro rated it it was amazing
I've been wanting to write a review of this memoir for awhile but I'm still not sure what to say except that I hope someday I can write something with so much heart, vulnerability, and authenticity as Finneran.
Nov 06, 2008 Tanya rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tanya by: Best Books You'll Never Read list
Such a touching account of life within a family and losing a major piece of yourself, as well as the whole, when a beloved brother dies. Sadness abounds in this story, but it's worth it - especially if you've ever known a family broken in this way.
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