Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Words cannot do this book justice, you just need to read it for yourself. And believe me, you will not be disappointed. This Tender Land by William Kent Kruger is being compared to Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. After reading this amazing book, I can see why. The story is comparable to Crawdads, except it is set in the Midwest and the lead protagonist is a spunky boy named Odie. I love me a Midwest author and love a story set in the Midwest even more. This book had me hooked from the very beginning. I fell in love with the characters and was so emotionally invested in their stories that I had a hard time putting this one down. The writing is descriptive and beautiful. Nature plays a large role and is essentially a character all it's own. Odie grows on you like an annoying younger sibling and his brother and friends are a perfect set misfit bandits. All I can say is read this book! I guarantee you will fall in love with it just like I did.
This Tender Land is set in southwestern Minnesota in the 1930's. Odie Banion, his older brother Albert, and their friend Mose live at the Lincoln School, a horrid place where hundreds of Native American and orphaned children are sent to be educated. They form a strong friendship with each other and a young girl named Emmy, who's mother is a teacher at the school. After a series of tragic events, the four children find themselves at a crossroads; stay at Lincoln School and continue to receive abuse or run away and see what awaits them. They find a canoe and start down the Minnesota River, heading to the Mississippi River in hopes of making it to St Louis. Over the summer they encounter sordid farmers, traveling healers, authorities on the hunt, and misfits just like them. They find deep connections every stop along their journey, learning about themselves in the process and ultimately find what they are each searching for.
I could not get enough of this story. Odie had me wrapped around his finger. He is comparable to Kya in Crawdads, fiercely independent, questions authority, and always pushing the envelope. Each situation the children found themselves in tested them in different ways. They met people who wanted to help and people who wanted to harm them. They dodged authorities every stop along the way and discovered pieces of themselves they never knew existed. The way this book wraps up had me smiling and crying. It is pretty telling when a book that is just shy of 500 pages flies by that quickly and ends up not being enough. I did not want this story to end and could have read another 500 pages.
This Tender Land quickly became one of my all time favorite reads and will be one that I will recommend for years to come. The setting is vibrate, the characters endearing, and the stories heartfelt. I laughed, I cried, I felt every emotion under the sun. I absolutely loved the setting of this book and felt like I was floating down the Mississippi with these sweet misfits. I gave This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger ★★★★★ and cannot recommend it enough.
Buy this book so you can pass it along to your loved ones! I already borrowed my copy to my mother in law and I cannot wait to discuss it with her. Thank you to Atria Books for the free copy of this amazing read.