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“If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love This Tender Land...This story is as big-hearted as they come.” —Parade
The unforgettable story of four orphans who travel the Mississippi River on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression.
In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, Odie O’Banion is an orphan confined to the Lincoln Indian Training School, a pitiless place where his lively nature earns him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee after committing a terrible crime, 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 summer, these four orphans 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.
This lively but heavy-handed adventure from Krueger (Ordinary Grace) follows four orphans as they search for safety in Depression-era Minnesota. Storytelling scamp Odysseus "Odie" O'Banion and his more rule-abiding brother Albert are shipped off to the Lincoln Indian Training School after their bootlegger father is murdered. There, along with dozens of Native American children, they endure brutal abuse and neglect; the only bright spot is their friendships with Mose, a teenage Sioux, and Emmy, a precocious girl whose mother, a teacher at the school, is killed by a tornado. After Odie kills the teacher who's been abusing him, the four children escape down the Minnesota River in a canoe, meeting both friends and foes along the way as they try to evade capture, find a home, and hold onto the bond between them. The encounters bring the era to life as the children meet traveling evangelists, Dust Bowl farmers in shanty towns, and ghettoized Jews in the flats of St. Paul. 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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This Tender Land
This is a wonderful story that has helped me pass time during the Covid 19 isolation. As my family and I struggle through the uncertainty of our time, it was comforting to watch these characters work their way through the terrible uncertainty of the Great Depression. Graceful writing, tender stories and vivid scenes remind me that this is a beautiful world that begs us to look for the simple beauty all around us. This is a book to savor.
Ordinary Grace quickly rose to a lifetime favorite for me and This Tender Land was no different. WKK has such an incredible way of describing the heartbreak that is life while also it’s beauty.
This Tender Earth
Amazing. A true epic. A cross between Grapes of Wrath and Water