I am often influenced by the book reviewers that say, “If you loved ______, then read ______.” My most recent experience was in reading, “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger. (Many sites compared it to “When the Crawdads Sing.”) I have read several of Krueger’s books and have usually found them very realistic and very down to earth – many are set in the midwest part of the U.S. and the familiarity of that setting drew me into his books.
“This Tender Land” begins in the summer of 1932 in the Lincoln Indian Training School. Odie O’Banion and his brother, Albert are orphaned white boys who have been sent to this dismal, cruel institution after the death of their parents. Mose is a mute Sioux boy who also lives at the school. After several tragic events, the three boys run away from the school and its evil administrators, along with a young girl named Emmy. They travel along rivers in a small canoe, meeting both cruel and kind people on their journey. It is a time of great poverty in much of the midwest, since this is the Depression era. They have to be resourceful and also have to be wary of being noticed and caught by the authorities.
I loved all four main characters in this book! They were very different children, with different motivations and personalities, but Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy became part of my world while I was reading about their adventures. I liked to see the different ways that they approached problems in their journey and I loved the bonds that developed between them. Krueger did a terrific job of making the Depression era realities come alive in “This Tender Land.” If you are looking for a realistic read – I think the best recommendation I can give this book is that it was a WONDERFUL story that left me with a feeling of hope!