The first William Kent Krueger novel I read was so good I had to read another. This one several people recommended to me and I’m passing on that recommendation. It’s a must read, indeed, a novel that’s difficult to put down. If you liked the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and all it’s quirky characters from the 30’s, you will enjoy this novel.
As I read, I thought to myself, “This reminds me of Huckleberry Finn.” Reading further, I thought, “It’s more than that–this is like Homer’s Odyssey! Then towards the end I learned Odie’s whole name is Odysseus, and that sealed the deal. Oh yeah, this was one heck of a mythic journey! Other secrets are revealed at the end as well.
The description on the back cover reads: “In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, Odie O’Banion is an orphan confined to the Lincoln Indian Training School, a pitiless place where his lively nature earns him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee after committing a terrible crime, he and his brother, Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.
“Over the course of one summer, these four orphans journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an enthralling, bighearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.”
You are going to hate a lot of the characters and what they do, just as you love many of the characters, and they all deserve your feelings. I want you to detest the idea of the Indian school and the heinous acts of what those who thought of and ran them tried to do.
The writing is so rich, I want to show you a couple of quotations to entice you. “There is a river that runs through time and the universe, vast and inexplicable, a flow of spirit that is at the heart of all existence, and every molecule of our being is a part of it. And what is God but the whole of that river?” Now THAT’S a juicy sentence to stop you in your tracks and make you sit and ponder!
Here’s one especially for you storytellers out there: “But I believe if you tell a story, it’s like sending a nightingale into the air with the hope that its song will never be forgotten.”
This story is one that will do exactly that. My friends who told me about this book haven’t forgotten. Neither will you.
I hope this book has other readers considering, as I have, their own hero’s journey, how they have wended and woven their ways on life’s pathways and rivers, searching for a place to call home.