This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by Atria Books and Simon & Schuster Canada
About the Book:
1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, 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 unforgettable summer, these four orphans will 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.
The air I breathed felt cleaner than any I’d breathed before. The white satin ribbon that was the moonlit river and the silvered cottonwoods and the black velvet sky with its millions of diamonds seemed to me the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.
While interlaced with an air of suspense, This Tender Land is first and foremost a character-driven novel. The story-line carries readers through the personalities of its characters, drawing on relationships and connections, just as much as it does actions. As a character study, the members of this bunch of runaways are intricate, distinct and they feel like individuals you may encounter just about anywhere.
Odie is a delightful narrator, whose voice is sometimes contemplative, sometimes humourous. He serves as a historian, filling the reader in on the individuals he encounters. I found him to be complex and determined, often in good but occasionally in confusing ways. Mose was no easier to understand; he was a walking enigma, a fact which fed into the mystery surrounding his person. Yet his charisma connects him not only with every member of the troop, but also to the reader. Albert was another wonderful character, although at times I found his personality and attitude at odds with his age, he seemed so wise beyond his years. The other members of the story were engaging yet banal, as they felt like authentic snapshots from mid-west America.
In all things, this book is written in the most lovely prose. I found myself captivated by the voice, lyricism, metaphor, and so on, and dwelt in the essence of the writing itself. The book was engaging due to the way it was written. This was perhaps my favorite element of the book; it’s always wonderful to be gifted with excellent literary quality.
This Tender Land is an elegant tale filled with beautiful writing that captures a perfect image of the imperfect America during the depression. While largely focused on depicting individuals, the story also divulges into the magical and mysterious--for better or for worse. I recommend this book highly to those who enjoy literary fiction and books with excellent written language, as well as those who can appreciate a little magic thrown in.
Thank you NetGalley, William Kent Krueger, Atria Books and Simon & Schuster Canada for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an impartial review; all opinions are my own.
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