Saturday, September 14, 2019

Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger 
Atria Books
Publication Date: September 3rd,  2019
Hardcover. 464 pages

About This Tender Land:

"For fans of Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing, a magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the New York Times bestselling author of Ordinary Grace. 

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."

This Tender Land was an unexpectedly beautiful and moving story about a group of orphans as they embark upon a truly unforgettable adventure in hopes of attaining a better life for themselves. I genuinely didn't expect this book to affect me half as much as it did and I'm endlessly thankful that I decided to take a chance on a book I hadn't heard of.

I have genuinely been having the hardest time writing this review because I'm not entirely sure where to start. I know I say in a lot of reviews how "refreshing" a book might be, but This Tender Land truly was the epitome of refreshing. It has such a mix of innocence and wonder coupled with the harsh reality of life and cruelties that humans can cast upon one another--while also showing the power and impact that kindness and compassion can also have.

We follow four Native American children as they travel on their own down the Mississippi with the goal of reaching St. Louis. Odie O'Banion, younger brother to Albert, is our narrator for the journey and has such a gifted and eloquent method of storytelling. He's only twelve when he embarks on this journey, but the way he tells his story is timeless and far more mature than his age implies--a maturity that is both admirable and unfortunate from having been exposed to so many cruel actions starting from such a young age. Odie is a bit of a troublemaker, whereas his brother is much more dutiful and willing to follow directions. Odie's penchant for trouble causes a myriad of problems for both himself and others at times, but his steadfast loyalty and desire to help others and do good in the world overshadows his mistakes and makes him an incredibly well-developed and well-rounded character to follow. I felt so much for and with Odie on this journey and easily empathized with his internal struggles throughout.

In addition to Odie and his older brother Albert are Moses (or Mose) and Emmy. Mose is Odie's best friend who does not speak verbally and instead communicates through sign language and Emmy is a little girl who has recently lost everything and yet still manages to be the optimistic ray of sunshine that little girls tend to be. The friendship between these four characters is so well-done and truly portrays the realistic ups and downs that would accompany a long journey with people you love. There are arguments both big and small and tensions that rise to dangerous levels, but at the end of the day everyone has a deep love and caring heart for one another and never wants anyone to be hurt or forgotten.

Krueger does a great job of showcasing the time period of 1930s Minnesota. Elements of the Depression are abundant and I felt as if he captured the setting extremely well. In the afterword, Krueger explains the various research he performed on both the setting and the Native American elements that are so crucial to the story and it is readily apparent in this story.

Words are powerful and I always know the sign of a good book and author is when I am able to feel deeply for the characters and the events of a book, which is exactly what This Tender Land did. This book made me feel angry, it has made me want to cry, it's made me laugh, and overall it made me feel to the fullest extent the struggles that each character endured.

It is a beautifully written story of hope, endurance, and friendship. Overall, I can't give This Tender Land anything other than five stars.

*I received an ARC of This Tender Land courtesy of the publisher exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

1 comment:

  1. Wow Jordan, this sounds amazing. I wish I had more time to read literary fiction, because this would be at the top of the list😁