Donna's Reviews > This Tender Land

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
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it was amazing
bookshelves: coming-of-age, family, grief, historical-fiction, life, racism, netgalley, netgalley2019

“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

There are a few authors that I’ve read in my life that make me feel as if I know their soul just by reading their words. William Kent Krueger is one of them. He can tell a wondrous story, as he does in This Tender Land, and even in midst of the most brutal, heart-breaking or frightening settings, compassion and love wash through like a mighty river.

This is a story about children who were forced to endure loss and pain at a tender age, and the sometimes unimaginable things they did to cope with their hurt and to survive. In the end, it all came down to each of them finding what they needed the most.

Set in 1932 in Minnesota, Odie and Albert are orphan brothers, the only white children at the Lincoln School, where Native American children with no families were sent. The school is a brutal place for all the children living there, and punishment is swift and doled out with wicked pleasure by the owners of the establishment, Mr. and Mrs. Brickman and their lackey, DiMarco. Odie and Albert are close friends with Mose, a young Sioux who lives at the school and speaks in sign language because his tongue was cut out when he little.

Albert is a rule-follower and is often exasperated at the rebellious nature of the younger, twelve year-old Odie, but the two love each other fiercely and do what they can to protect each other from the harsh conditions of the school.

When a tornado rips through the area, and after Odie performs a terrible act, the two flee along with Mose and six year-old Emmy, a neighbor, whose loving mother was killed during the storm. They take to the Gilead River in a canoe to find an aunt living in St. Louis, always trying to stay one step ahead of those who would either drag them back to the hellish life they had been living, or throw them in jail.

“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.”

A true Huck Finn type tale, the story weaves through the lives of those the children encounter on their journey. Their passage along the river is filled with danger and horrors, but there is always good to be found wherever they go, even if it’s not always obvious.

Narrated by the adult Odie, who has a gift for storytelling throughout his life, you know from the beginning that he survived their trek, and his many adventures along the way kept me enthralled and sometimes made me ache.

William Kent Krueger gently introduces topics in his story that are relevant today, including the abominable treatment toward Native Americans in their own country, the marginalization of others, racial and ethnic prejudice, poverty, gender roles and situations. And just as in his novel Ordinary Grace, there is a current of spirituality that runs through it all. This is something that can easily turn me off, especially in today’s climate of so much faux Christianity. However, it is obvious that the author isn’t trying to force religious beliefs on the reader, and that everything he writes comes from the deepest, sweetest place. I melted at his words, and I applaud the subtle, loving and non-judgmental position he takes throughout the novel.

“Open yourself to every possibility, for there is nothing your heart can imagine that is not so.”

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an ARC of this exquisite novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 5 stars
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Reading Progress

May 8, 2019 – Shelved
May 8, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
May 15, 2019 – Started Reading
May 20, 2019 – Shelved as: coming-of-age
May 20, 2019 – Shelved as: family
May 20, 2019 – Shelved as: grief
May 20, 2019 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
May 20, 2019 – Shelved as: life
May 20, 2019 – Shelved as: racism
May 20, 2019 – Shelved as: netgalley
May 20, 2019 – Finished Reading
May 22, 2019 – Shelved as: netgalley2019

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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Judy Great review Donna! I have this one to read soon.


Donna Thanks, Judy! I hope you love it, too!


marilyn Wonderful review Donna!


message 4: by Dem (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dem Great review Donna.


Donna marilyn wrote: "Wonderful review Donna!"

Thank you, Marilyn!


Donna Dem wrote: "Great review Donna."

Thanks so much, Dem!


message 7: by Candace (new) - added it

Candace Terrific review, Donna! What an awesome sounding book. I'll have to check it out. When is its publication date?


Donna Candace wrote: "Terrific review, Donna! What an awesome sounding book. I'll have to check it out. When is its publication date?"

Thanks, Candace! Publication date is September 3. If you're on NetGalley, you could request it and maybe get an advance copy, though. :)


message 9: by Candace (new) - added it

Candace Donna wrote: "Candace wrote: "Terrific review, Donna! What an awesome sounding book. I'll have to check it out. When is its publication date?"

Thanks, Candace! Publication date is September 3. If you're on NetG..."


Thank you, Donna. Netgalley is possible in my future. In the meantime, I entered the giveaway for the book.


Donna Candace wrote: "Donna wrote: "Candace wrote: "Terrific review, Donna! What an awesome sounding book. I'll have to check it out. When is its publication date?"

Thanks, Candace! Publication date is September 3. If ..."


Great! Good luck!


Dorie  - Cats&Books :) great review, I may have to give myself a treat and read this one now, I'm so happy to have a print galley for a change :)


Angela M Donna, what a beautiful review. I finished this last night and I loved it !


Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters Excellent- fabulous review!
I love what you wrote about Odie & Albert!


Cheri Excellent review, Donna, so glad you loved this one, too.


Dorie  - Cats&Books :) I can't wait to get to this one but I have several ahead of it :(


Christine Such a fine review, Donna, and your opening paragraph is exquisite. I loved this book too.


message 17: by Amelia (new) - added it

Amelia Strydom Beautiful, well-written review, Donna. Adding it to my TBR list.


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