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This Tender Land

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  134,424 ratings  ·  16,047 reviews
In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota's 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 ...more
Hardcover, 450 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Atria Books
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Lacey For sure okay for high school, and I would say "maybe okay" for very mature middle schoolers.

Language: There are some uses of damn and g--damn and on…more
For sure okay for high school, and I would say "maybe okay" for very mature middle schoolers.

Language: There are some uses of damn and g--damn and one instance of f---.
Violence: Yes, there is violence, including abusive punishments that take place at the school, a few encounters that turn deadly, and reference to abuse/massacre of Native Americans by settlers. (And it's set in the 1930s, before the Federal Firearms Act, so guns were as common as shovels in most communities!) There are allusions to child abuse/molestation (only in the first section while at the school) but it's never discussed outright.
Sex: Very little sexual scenes other than a brief reference to an extra-martial affair and a quick kiss between two 13-year-olds. One scene unfolds in a brothel, but it's very clean.

There are a few passages and themes that get a bit religious (and anti-religions).

The novel's "cleanliness" aside, the reader needs to have a decent grasp on basic Depression-era history in order to understand some of the novel. Several themes require a strong emotional intelligence as well. That alone might preclude this from being good for a middle schooler.

Based on the subject matter, I would highly recommend this as an excellent example of contemporary literary fiction that a high schooler might actually ENJOY. ;) It would be a good read in place of or in comparison to The Grapes of Wrath or Huckleberry Finn. Very reminiscent of John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens. (less)
Ellen WKK calls it a companion book. I got to hear him speak last week and he announced that he's writing a THIRD companion book!!…moreWKK calls it a companion book. I got to hear him speak last week and he announced that he's writing a THIRD companion book!!(less)

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Dorie  - Cats&Books :)

After reading this book I think there should be a separate genre for incredibly well written books that will endure the test of time, this is truly a “masterpiece”. It is literary fiction, adventure, mystery, a lesson in morality and forgiveness, and so much more. To understand this book you really MUST READ it, and I seldom say that about a book. It is every bit as good as Ordinary Grace by this author.

The time frame for the book is during the
Diane S ☔
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lor-2019
When one reads a book that is almost 500 pages, and upon completion is not ready for the book to end, in fact could continue on for another 500 pages, then you know a book deserves 5 stars. At least for me. Four children, three horribly mistreated at the Lincoln school for Indians, make a life changing journey. Although only one boy is a Native American, all are orphans. All have no choice but to be on the run. All will change in big and small ways during this journey.

Although this may sound li
Angela M (On a little break)

The best historical fiction doesn’t just take me to the time and place depicted in the story. It takes me into the heart and soul of people who lived there and then. This is precisely what William Kent Kruger has done in this beautifully written story of four orphans on their journey to find safety, home, and love while discovering themselves along the way. He does this with characters who are everything to this telling of history, whose stories tell of the extreme hardships of the Great Depress
My favorite thing about reading books is when I connect to the characters. We don't have to be anything alike but I have to care about them or sometimes, hate them, so much that the people seem real and I want to know what happens next in the story and with the characters. I cared about Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy but also, I cared about so many other characters in this book.

The story takes place during the summer of 1932, right before Odie turns thirteen. He and his sixteen year old brother Al
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Nilufer Ozmekik
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing

This book was a beautiful symphony to my ears, refreshing smell of nature to my nose, healing hands to my soul, heart-warming, emotional touch to my heart, lyrical, poetical, nurturing elements to my brain. There was not much words to express my feelings how I loved this book and how I enjoyed each word, sentence, each of the journey those orphans have taken, each i
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars
One of my all-time favorite books is Ordinary Grace, a book I gave 5 stars and have read twice, even though I rarely re-read books. I was highly anticipating the author’s new release and was thrilled when offered a review copy by the publisher.

Four orphans escape an abusive situation at a boarding school and set off on a river trip in a canoe bound for St Louis. The trip is not a leisurely one, as the authorities are hot on their trail. Along the way, they meet a variety of people, all
Elyse Walters
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing

“This Tender Land”, is a mesmerizing tale with wonderful characters, rich themes, extraordinary storytelling, delicious writing....with dialogue that sprinkles gold nuggets in our hearts, gut, and mind.
A couple of times I thought: “Stand By Me” - meets “Deliverance”....meets Huckleberry Finn. It has those ‘type’ of a ‘feelings’.
I’m pleased as a pickle—to say this novel is every bit as good as “Ordinary Grace”...( another book by Krueger that’s one of my favorites).....
starting wi
Mary Beth
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing

The story takes place in the 1930's during the Great Depression in Minnesota. Odie and Albert are two white orphaned teenage brothers who live at the Lincoln school. It's a school for Native American Indian children who are forcibly separated from their parents and sent there to be educated. Four and Albert are forced to live there as well, with the Indians. They were the only two white orphans in the school. Mrs Brickman who was known as The Black Witch was the school superinten
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I've poured the best of myself into this story and I invite you to experience all of its remarkable twists and turns. As Odie says in the very beginning 'Open yourself to every possibility, for there is nothing your heart can imagine that is not so.' Blessings, -William Kent Krueger

True to his word, William Kent Krueger did pour his heart and soul into this book. His writing is both moving and beautiful. I found myself highlighting large sections of text. He has the heart of a poet. If you ha
5 +++++ glorious stars

I have been waiting for a long time to say this about a book, and now I can: This novel is a masterpiece. It is William Kent Krueger at his very best - it is clear he threw his entire heart and soul into this book. I will buy a hardback copy (something I never do) and keep it forever.

Set during The Great Depression in 1932 in my home state of Minnesota we follow our protagonist, 12-year-old Odie, and his three fellow travelers (self-dubbed The Four Vagabonds) on their searc
David Putnam
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Great descriptions, great characters, great story, a trifecta in books. The story didn’t grab like I expected it to but I think I had too great of an expectation. I loved Ordinary Grace and had built this one up in my mind. Shortly, though the book did grab and it is every bit as good. In fact, I believe it will be a contender for the Edgar, (and probably win yet again).
The story is an odyssey. It is a little episodic and meanders just a tad until the conflict is set (once we know the little gro
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for BEST HISTORICAL FICTION 2019! what will happen?

“Maybe it really is like it says in the Bible,” I offered. “God’s a shepherd and we’re his flock and he watches over us.”

For a long while, Albert didn’t say anything. I listened to that kid crying in the dark because he felt lost and alone and believed no one cared.

Finally Albert whispered, “Listen, Odie, what does a shepherd eat?”

I didn’t know where he was going with that, so I didn’t reply.

“His flock
Remember this. It's an old saying but a true one. Home is where your heart is.
Wonderful book! As the author describes in his Author's note...: 'The river voyage upon which Odie O'Banion and his fellow Vagabonds embark in the summer of 1932 is a mythic journey'.... Odie and his older brother, young girl Emmy and the silent Indian young guy Mose escape from a sad home for parentless children, brutally run by amongst others a cruel couple. They embark on the river to go and search out an aunt livin
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
A Nice Read but a somewhat overly sentimental story that dragged and didn't really hold my interest and created little if no excitement in my reading life

I love Kent Krueger's writing, beautiful prose and descriptive passages but this book came across as a little too sentimental and contrived to me as a reader and I found it a wee bit preachy.

Set in Minnesotthe in 1932 The Lincoln School is a sad place where Native American children, forcibly separated from their families are sent to be educa
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A quintessential Midwestern American fable, This Tender Land is a coming of age novel and a tale of an epic journey in the form of homage to The Odyssey and Huckleberry Finn. During The Great Depression, four orphans runaway from an abusive Indian school by canoeing the rivers of Minnesota in order to reach St Louis and the protection of an Aunt. As the river turns, they meet a variety of people along the way struggling to survive the profound effects of the catastrophic economic downturn. Some ...more
Chelsea Humphrey
As so many reviewers have already written more eloquent and meaningful reviews than I can provide, I'll just state that I can 100% see why William Kent Krueger has such a loyal and passionate following. The atmosphere, the characters, and even the plot progression were all incredibly well done here, and I found myself engrossed in the story and what would happen to this group of kids on the move. If you're looking for an excellent review that will talk you into giving this book a try, please vis ...more

"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 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 f

"Nothing is permanent in this world, not even our troubles." (Charlie Chaplin)

William Kent Krueger sweeps aside the present and takes us to an era in American history in which hope was at a far distance and pain and heartache were daily visitors. It's 1932 and the Great Depression has dug its roots deeply into the American landscape. The Haves had far less and the Have Nots had even less than nothing.

The Lincoln School was set upon the banks of the Gilead River in Fremont County in Minnesota. To
Larry H
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For some reason I held off reading this book, but man, was it amazing.

"Everything that’s been done to us we carry forever. Most of us do our damnedest to hold on to the good and forget the rest. But somewhere in the vault of our hearts, in a place our brains can’t or won’t touch, the worst is stored, and the only sure key to it is in our dreams."

Minnesota, 1932. Odie and his brother Albert are orphans, left in the care of a school for Native American children taken from their parents, despite th
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if ‘where the crawdads sing’ and ‘before we were yours’ had a baby, it would be this book.

i really have no idea how else to describe this. its the wonderful combination of the reverent fondness for nature and the coming-up-age in a time where children had to look after themselves. its a very compelling story and excellently written.

it is rather lengthy, but then again, some of the best journeys take time. i enjoyed following the ‘vagabonds’ on their adventure to better living. i thought their
Anne Bogel
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Part Grapes of Wrath, part Huckleberry Finn: this tough and tender coming-of-age story (and Odyssey retelling) focuses on four Minnesota kids during the Great Depression, whose respective situations become ever more impossible due to human cruelty and circumstance. After a tornado demolishes
life as they know it, they realize no one is going to save them—and so they make a plan to save themselves that starts with escaping down the river.

A great story, beautifully told.
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
4 Stars.

A beautifully written character driven novel about the meaning of family and friendship and most of all the definition of home.

It’s 1932 and the Great Depression has hit and hit hard.

In Minnesota, four young orphans attend the Lincoln School - a school for Native American children. Odie and Albert are brothers, Odie is often in trouble for something, frustrating his older brother Albert to no end. Moses, is mute, and uses sign language to converse. Emmy has recently lost everything
Andrew Smith
Quite a few of my Goodreads friend have loved this book and consequently I eventually succumbed to its pull despite one or two reservations. I’d enjoyed Ordinary Grace but not quite as much as many others had, for me it just took too long to get going. But this story of four orphans setting off on an odyssey of discovery through the American Midwest did sound promising. Set at the time of the Great Depression, it told the tale of their escape from the grim cruelty of an Indian Training School - ...more
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"There's no place like home." Four vagabonds are on the run from the Lincoln Indian Training School searching for "safe haven" during the summer of 1932. They will experience hope and despair, cruelty and kindness as they canoe down the Gilead River destined for the Minnesota River then the mighty Mississippi. Final destination: Saint Louis. Who are these vagabond children and what has precipitated this perilous journey? In the words of our storyteller, Odie O'Banion, "Four years of my life [hav ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful story! I wish it wasn’t over...
in the summer of 1932, four orphaned children escape The Lincoln School for Indians where they are terribly mistreated. A pair of brothers Albert and Odie, a Native American boy..Mose, and Emmy a young girl.
This story is told by Odie, who is now over 80 yrs old looking back on that summer’s journey and all the people that they came across in their quest to find safety and HOME!
This author is fantastic! I loved his novel Amazing Grace, and this one too!

An ode to another time and a journey born of desperation, a prayer for the innocence of childhood shattered by evil intentions and cruel actions of adults entrusted with their care, a classic coming-of-age tale that includes an ambitious quest, and an entreaty for the inner peace found in offering forgiveness to others.

“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
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this is going to be a tough review to write. This Tender Land blew me away!
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
In ‘This Tender Land’ William Kent Krueger takes the reader on a mythic journey with four children running away from the Lincoln Indian Training School in 1932 Minnesota. Krueger's expressive prose and historically astute depiction of people and places during the Depression-era quickly captivated me; I was engaged as well by the main characters and wanted to know how things would turn out for them. Two of the children are orphan brothers, Albert, sixteen, and Odie, twelve, the only white childre ...more
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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 ...more

Articles featuring this book

For those of us with a taste for it, historical fiction scratches an itch that no other genre can quite reach. By crossing the wires of...
98 likes · 4 comments
“Of all that we're asked to give others in this life, the most difficult to offer may be forgiveness.” 74 likes
“If we were perfect, the light he shines on us would just bounce right off. But the wrinkles, they catch the light. And the cracks, that’s how the light gets inside us. When I pray, Odie, I never pray for perfection. I pray for forgiveness, because it’s the one prayer I know will always be answered.” 42 likes
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