This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

1. First lines. 2. Published 2019 Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster The book is available in Hardcover, Paperback, Large print, Digital Audio, Audio CD and ebook. 3. Map and postcard from the official website of William Kent Krueger 4. Harmonica [Public Domain] via Pxhere

It’s 1932, and Odie and his brother Albert live in the fictional Lincoln Indian Training School, Minnesota where they have been left as orphans. When Odie commits a serious crime, he escapes the school with Albert, his friend Mose, and a little girl Emmy, orphaned when a tornado destroyed the farm near the school. The four children start their journey by canoe down the fictional Gilead River to join the Mississippi River and get to St Louis where they believe an aunt lives. They are pursued by the authorities and in their travels meet many different people, some dangerous and others protective and loving.


“Nothing like watching the sun come up on the Mississippi, Norman,” Tru said. “The water like fire all around, and the whole river empty except for you and your tow. I swear, standing in the wheelhouse on such a morning, you know what a king must feel like when he’s looking out from his castle across all the land he owns.”

“Sure this is hard work, but it’s good work because it’s part of what connects us to this land, Buck. This beautiful, tender land.”

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

My thoughts:

Recommended. This is a simply but beautifully told adventure story, succeeding in bringing the past vividly to life. While I really enjoyed the first half, I felt that the rest dragged on with some of the characters’ motivations and actions hard to believe.

Book reviews:
  • New York Journal of Books: “ This Tender Land, a book you won’t own. It will own you. Long, sprawling, and utterly captivating, readers will eat up every delicious word of it.”
  • Publishers Weekly: “Krueger keeps the twists coming, and the constant threat of danger propels the story at a steady clip. Though overly sentimental prose (“With every turn of the river, we were changing, becoming different people, and for the first time I understood that the journey we were on wasn’t about getting to St. Louis”) weakens the story’s impact, Krueger’s enjoyable riff on The Odyssey will satisfy fans of American heartland epics.”

William Kent Krueger The author’s website has some excellent, unique resources to download, including a map and postcards.

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