This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Ebook

Dates Read: 9/17/19-9/26/19

I will be completely upfront in that I totally didn’t see that ending coming! The book is reminiscent of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, with a complete surprise wrap-up of the story.

Set in 1932, Odysseus (Odie) O’Banion is an orphan stuck at the Lincoln Indian Training School in Minnesota. This school is intended to be a boarding school for Native American children in an effort to “kill the Indian, save the man”. Odie, along with his brother, Albert, are forced into this school because they were orphaned after the death of their father. There they meet a Sioux boy named Mose, who had his tongue removed when he was a boy, leaving him mute.

The school is extremely cruel in their punishments. One of the punishments forced the boy to stay in the “Quiet Room”, where they are physically abused (and possibly sexually as well), left to sleep on a bale of hay, with the only companion being a rat. Odie became well acquainted with this room because he would not fit the mold expected of him. The other punishment was being forced to work in the fields for the local farmers. That hard work tore up their hands and left the boys exhausted, sometimes also making them miss dinner.

While working in the fields, Mose, Alfred, and Odie meet the Frost family, and specifically little Emmy Frost. When a tornado comes through Minnesota, the Frost family farm is destroyed, leading to the death of all the family members except for little Emmy. The owner of the Lincoln School, Thelma Brickman (aka the Black Witch), adopts Emmy following these events, which concerns Odie and company for her safety.

After a trip to the Quiet Room leads to murder, Odie must leave the school. His brother and Mose decide to go with him, but they refuse to leave without Emmy. They kidnap her and run away with the money and papers in the Brickman safe. They decide to take a canoe down the Gilead River, which feeds into the Mississippi, in order to get to their aunt’s house in St. Louis, MO.

The journey leads to a path of self-discovery, love, family, and faith. Each part of the book is a new interaction which ultimately affects how Odie and the rest of the vagabonds interpret the world around them.

As for my opinions, I was slightly disappointed by the ending. I was incredibly surprised, which might be what was expected, but I kept thinking back to whether we were even given clues, and we really weren’t. It seemed like a huge surprise that come out of nowhere. I would rather we get some stepping stones to the ending rather than just throwing us in there.

I definitely would not have picked this book to read for myself. However, there were sections of this book that kept my interest, but there were also other parts of this book that I just completely lost focus. I ultimately would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars, but I could be persuaded to give it a little more.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

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