This Tender Land [Book Review]

November 7, 2019

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Coming of Age, Adventure, Great Depression

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

A journey to find safety, love, and home….

During the Great Depression, four orphans escape from the Lincoln School in Minnesota, an unhappy and perilous home/institution for Native American children where they had little food, harsh punishments, and suffered abuse. This quartet of miserable children consists of rebellious, free-spirited, and harmonica-playing Odie; his responsible and conscientious older brother Albert; their best friend and Native American, Mose; and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy. The foursome makes their escape in a canoe down the Gilead River toward the Mississippi in search of a safe place to call home and people to love them. They become found family to each other and survive encounters with all types of people.

Amazon Rating:  4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Writing: An unforgettable and memorable story, Krueger’s writing in This Tender Land is lyrical and a joy to read! Some of the circumstances require a suspension of disbelief, but I was so wrapped up in the story and the writing that I was willing to go there with the author. Filled with vivid setting descriptions, colorful characters, and harrowing adventures, the story is a page-turner. I’m rounding this up to five stars because the author wrote an emotionally engaging story with characters I cared about. I couldn’t put it down until I knew the outcome for the four “vagabonds.”

Characters: These four children! :::::sigh::::: I cared about their well being, wanted to protect them, and cheered for them to find a forever home. They have a common goal to escape their dire circumstances at the Lincoln School, but they each have individual struggles, too. The story also features a cast of colorful and memorable (some unlikeable) supporting characters.

Themes: Thoughtful themes in This Tender Land include found family, survival, searching for safety and home, loyalty, friendship, helping others, homelessness, generosity, bravery, faith, reconciliation, and healing.

Because of references to Giliad, I kept thinking of the refrain to the song:
There is a Balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sinsick soul.

Recommended: This Tender Land is recommended for readers who appreciate a well-written, poignant, and lyrical story by a master storyteller, for fans of William Kent Krueger (Ordinary Grace), for those who love historical fiction and adventure stories, and definitely for book clubs.

***Content Warning: Child abuse and neglect (if this were a movie, I would rate it PG-13)

My Rating:  4.5 Stars (rounded to 5 on Goodreads)

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This Tender Land

This Tender Land Information (affiliate link)

Meet the Author, William Kent Krueger

William Kent Krueger

Raised in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, William Kent Krueger briefly attended Stanford University—before being kicked out for radical activities. After that, he logged timber, worked construction, tried his hand at freelance journalism, and eventually ended up researching child development at the University of Minnesota. He currently makes his living as a full-time author. He’s been married for over 40 years to a marvelous woman who is a retired attorney. He makes his home in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves.

Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe. His work has received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, and the Friends of American Writers Prize. His last five novels were all New York Times bestsellers.

“Ordinary Grace,” his stand-alone novel published in 2013, received the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America in recognition for the best novel published in that year. “Manitou Canyon,” number fifteen in his Cork O’Connor series, was released in September 2016. Visit his website at


Have you read Ordinary Grace? Is This Tender Land on your TBR?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. Glad to read this review– I read his book, Ordinary Grace las spring. Also so many heartfelt characters. Putting it on my list. Thanks again Carol!! And just finished The Dearly Beloved, every bit as great as you promised!! Going to recommend it for our Lit group’s next book list. And the Bee Keeper of Aleppo. Really like that as well, but wished we could have gone on with their story to see where/how they settled. Thanks for all your great recommendations– I can’t tell you how many people I have sent the link to your blog!! xox

    • Thanks for taking time to comment and being my biggest cheerleader Rhonda! I appreciate your support so very much! 😍 I’m happy to hear you loved Dearly Beloved! Great discussion topics! I’m still on a waiting list for Bee Keeper. Hoping to get it before the year’s end.

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