“A picaresque tale of adventure during the Great Depression. Part Grapes of Wrath, part Huckleberry Finn, Krueger’s novel is a journey over inner and outer terrain toward wisdom and freedom.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
A beautiful and memorable book, This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger held me spellbound from the beginning to the very last page. Set during the Great Depression, the book opens in the Lincoln School in 1932 Minnesota.
The residential school houses mostly Native American children who have been forcibly separated from their families, and forbidden to use their own languages or follow their own customs. Into the mix are added brothers Odie and Albert O’Bannion, sons of an itenerant grifter.
When Odie’s high spirits get him into trouble, the brothers, along with their friend Mose and Emmy, the newly orphaned daughter of a kind local woman decide to steal a canoe and make a break for it by sailing down the Mississippi.
Odie and Albert hope to find their Aunt, but with only childhood memories of what her house and neighborhood look like, finding her in St Louis will be a challenge. Along the way the group make friends and encounter foes as their journey becomes both a spiritual and physical challenge.
The prose throughout the book is nothing short of stunning, every word is carefully chosen and one does not have to read the author’s note at the end of the book to know that this has been a real labour of love for him. Odie and his companions have become firm favourites , each is special but it is the bond between them and the strength of their friendship that makes the book truly special.
It is a wonderful blend of a coming of age story and an epic adventure, and so much more besides. The author has done a truly wonderful job of bringing the book’s setting to life, and the attention he lavishes on all the supporting characters more than pays off to make this one of the most special and memorable books I have read in a long time, one that has already become a favourite to be revisited time and time again.
Added 8th September 2019