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This Tender Land

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

A beautifully written, absorbing story of four children and their turbulent river journey searching for safety and security.



In 1932, four orphans are forced to flee the Lincoln School, home to hundreds of Native Americans boys in Minnesota, leaving a body in their wake. Odie O’Banion, his older brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a little girl name Emmy, steal away in a canoe, heading toward the Mississippi River and the town of St Louis. The brothers have an aunt, Aunt Julia, who lives in St. Louis. Emmy and Mose have no family left, but the brother are hoping Aunt Julie will take them all in. They are all looking for a home, some place safe and loving, and far away from the cruel school superintendent Mrs. Brickman.

Their journey takes place during the Great Depression, and the four orphans, who are wanted by the law, cross paths with a struggling farmer who holds them captive, a faith healer who offers them a home, and many displaced individuals and struggling families. Their adventure, complete with peril, takes them through small river towns and big cities on their search to find out where they belong.

“With every turn of the river since I’d left Lincoln School, the world had become broader, it’s mysteries more complex, it’s possibilities infinite.”


THIS TENDER LAND is a beautifully written, absorbing story of four courageous children, calling themselves the Vagabonds, who are just looking for love and safety. They poignantly form their own little family and valiantly take care of one another.

The story is told from Odie’s point of view. It touches on Native Americans, and their loss of their heritage, as well as The Great Depression and the suffering by so many. It’s also about the innocence of youth during turbulent times.

You will find yourself wanting to reach out and adopt Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy. You will want to shelter and protect them from the Brickman’s and the other evils awaiting them around each bend in the river. You will feel their fear, and hopefulness, My favorite part of the book was when Odie would play his harmonica and tell the other stories to take their minds of their troubles, aiding in their survival, fortitude and resilience during the bleak and treacherous times.

THIS TENDER LAND is simply unforgettable and well worth the commitment of 450 pages or over 14 hours of listening pleasure. Author William Kent Krueger has written one of my favorite books of the year, reminding me somewhat of the Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Krueger thoughtfully and skillfully transports us from the Gilead River in Minnesota onto the Minnesota River, and finally to the mighty Mississippi River on the adventure of a lifetime for these four children.

“Ask me, God’s right here. In the dirt, the rain, the sky, the trees, the apples, the stars in the cottonwoods. In you and me too. It’s all connected and it’s all God. Sure this land is hard work, but it’s good work because it’s part of what connects us to this land, Buck. This beautiful, tender land.

Publisher Atria Books

Published September 3, 2019

Narrated Scott Brick

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