I fell hard for William Kent Krueger’s writing with his 2013 bestseller, Ordinary Grace, and have been eagerly awaiting this follow-up.
Like Ordinary Grace, This Tender Land is told from the point of view of a boy on the cusp of adolescence. Our hero is Odie, a 12 year old orphan being raised as one of the few white kids at an Indian school in Minnesota during the Great Depression.
Abused and mistreated, Odie, his brother Albert, their friend Mose, and a six-year-old orphan named Emmy run away to escape the cruel headmistress after a terrifying turn of events. They take off down the river, hoping to join up with the Mississippi and make their way to St. Louis where Odie’s and Albert’s aunt lives. Along they way they encounter heartbreaking scenes of squalor and poverty, join up with a traveling Christian revival camp for a while, and are taken prisoner by an unstable, one-eyed man.
The story is impeccably told in Odie’s voice, and I felt utterly immersed in the landscape and the time period. Like Ordinary Grace, the story explores questions about God and faith, but not in a preachy way. The book is a beautifully written odyssey, and the journey is long and winding. It did feel long at times, which was my main issue with the book, so I recommend going in prepared for the slower pace. Overall, an immensely satisfying read from a master writer!
Many thanks to Netgalley and Atria books for a free digital copy in exchange for my review.