William Kent Krueger has been known for his mystery and crime-fiction series revolving around the main protagonist named Cork O’Connor. A companion of Krueger’s first standalone novel titled Ordinary Grace, This Tender Land has topped several bestseller charts since its release. These include The New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal, among others. Interestingly, Krueger spent three laborious years writing the novel, only to toss it into the trash can. He then worked on an altogether new story, which is what This Tender Land was.


This Tender Land is a historical fiction saga set in the era of the Great Depression, when many people were rendered homeless and were struggling to find a way to survive. The story is narrated by Odysseus O’Banion, one of the four characters in the story. He is commonly referred to as Odie.

The story begins as a tale of reminiscence, with old Odie reflecting on his past. Odie nostalgically narrates the story of his escape, in which he was accompanied by his brother and two friends from a boarding school in Minnesota. He shares the journey undertaken by the four kids, all orphans, to escape the Lincoln School. This was the place where Native American children were being tutored after being forcefully separated from their parents.

The two brothers, Odie and Albert, are the only whites in a school populated by black kids. The brothers find unlikely companions in the form of a speechless boy, Mose, and a cute little girl, Emmy. Tired of the harsh and unruly regime of the Brickmans, the school administrators, the four kids look for the perfect opportunity to flee. They then embark on a quest to find a place they can call home. They negotiate the long Gilead River, meeting several people along the way.


Even though the story revolves around the kids and their struggle, the author has done a fantastic job of capturing the dark era of the Depression in the form of the adults that the children come across from time to time. The author has captured the picturesque landscapes of America from the era of the 1930s. All in all, the plot of This Tender Land effortlessly evokes feelings of self-identity, friendship, and hope.


While it understandable that the author bides his time in world-building, it is hard to deny that the book is a slow starter. The story moves along very slowly – maybe too slowly. It may even seem off-putting for the fans accustomed to Krueger’s fast-paced detective thriller series featuring Cork O’Connor.


Open yourself to every possibility, for there is nothing your heart can imagine that is not so.

Of all that we’re asked to give others in this life, the most difficult to offer maybe forgiveness.

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?


Ameya Rating:

Taking the readers on a riveting, uncharted journey with four orphans, this depression-era story is anything but depressing. As the kids head toward their destination, we, as readers, travel with them, praying for their well-being and enjoying the adventure as much as they do.

This Tender Land is fully worthy of a commendable score of 4 stars out of 5.  The gripping and poignant tale is profoundly satisfying, and the book is reminiscent of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, taking the readers back in time to their bedtime stories.

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