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Review: This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Title: This Tender Land
Author: William Kent Krueger
Year published: 2019
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 368 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (MN and MO)

Summary1932, 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.

Review: I have had this book on my TBR shelf and my Book of The Month (BOTM) virtual shelf for 3 years. I have avoided it, thinking I wasn't going to like it. So why did I choose it from BOTM? It must have sounded good at the time. Well, what the heck did I wait so long for? This book is really good. I also liked Krueger's Ordinary Grace (my review) , but this one is better.

The "Indian" Training schools were such horrible places and the first part of this book really shows that: beatings, sexual abuse, horrible food, hard physical labor, denial of Native American heritage and language, children taken from their families and more. Having a friend, someone to look out for you, was super important and our main characters had just that.

Part Two and Three find a band of 4 kids taking off on their own, weathering the elements, and figuring out who they are. Along the way they encounter fascinating characters, trouble, heart ache, and friends. They start to figure out who they are, what they want out of life, and what matters to them. 

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Literary Escapes: Missouri
  • Big Book Summer Challenge: #2

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