This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

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A magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.

I couldn’t agree more with that statement included above! This Tender Land was another wonderful 5-star read for me by William Kent Krueger. If you don’t remember, I enthused about Ordinary Grace – a book I thought was the very best book I read that year. (I called it splendid.) This man has such a fantastic gift for storytelling! This Tender Land is such a wonderful coming-of-age story filled with adventure and many moments where you are left on the edge-of-your-seat. You’re left there in anticipation for what might happen next to Odie and his gang of Vagabonds as they make their escape down the Mississippi in a canoe.

His prose flows freely like the river this book is situated on. It’s just simply splendid. It’s definitely a book to settle in with because you know you are going to be treated to an epic and all-consuming story and I wasn’t expecting anything less from the man that gave us Ordinary Grace. 😉

Although (part omitted to avoid spoiler) had taken something from me – maybe the last breath of my childhood – as the river and Albert and Mose pushed us along through the dark, all I could think about was what I’d gained, which I thought of then as freedom, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of it. 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. I finally decided that maybe what I’d lost (part omitted) was my old self, and what I was feeling was a new self coming forth. The reborn Odie O’Banion, whose real life lay ahead of him now.

Prose that left me sighing deeply with content!

This is a story about Odie O’Banion, is narrated by Odie and is such a wonderful, wonderful story of his coming of age, his perseverance, determination and will to escape his tortured life in the Lincoln School. We are taken on this epic journey through the suffering and strife of an America deep in the Depression that is bursting with heart and hope. Described to have, “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.” I can’t really say anything more other than I absolutely loved my time with this book. Being lost in how Krueger spins a yarn was an undeniable treat:

And then I considered my brother. There had been only one constant in my whole life, and that was Albert. He was at the beginning of all my memories, beside me on every road I’d traveled, had saved me from a thousand perils, knew my heart better than any other human being. Sister Eve had told me that what my brother wanted, his deepest wish, was to keep me safe. That had been his life, a long sacrifice for me. And I loved him for it. I loved him with every atom of my being, with a love so fierce it threatened my resolve. I wanted to lay my head on his shoulder, as I’d done a million times, and have him put his arm around me and tell me everything was all right and I was safe and we would always be together, because that’s what brothers did.

I cannot say it enough – Mr. Krueger has an astonishing storytelling gift. I cannot wait until the next epic story arrives from him, I know I will be first in line to read it. He also leaves us with a final note about a pervasive element in This Tender Land:

Sadly, the stories of the ill-treatment of Native American children forced into government boarding schools are as numerous as the blades of grass on the prairies.

Even his writing of that point left me breathless.