Books that are simply written often tell a wondrous tale. They don’t need gimmicks because the writing shines through and takes a reader on a journey that is moving, loving, and ever so worthwhile reading. This Tender Land is one of those books.
Life has always been hard for those children left behind when their parents perished and they were left orphans with no one to care for them. For the brothers Odie, who is our guide in this story, and Robert, placed into an Indian school for orphans as the only two white boys, life is ever so difficult. It’s 1932, the depression is in full swing, and these children are burdened with a horrible director, Mrs. Brickman at the Lincoln School. There are others at the school a mixture of good and bad people, and as the brothers and their companions make a choice to escape they take Mose, a Native American mute boy, and Emmy, a newly acquired addition to the school with them as they travel through small towns making their way down the river searching for many things, family, connections, and peace.
There are the good and the bad in this story and this group of four children discover these people in the small towns along the river they travel. Odie finds his battle with religion, a god he knows as vengeful and cruel, changes as they travel further towards their destination. There are so many difficulties along the way. Mrs Brickman, hiding a terrible secret, pursues the group, and others looking to capture the reward offered for Emmy, befriend the group in the hopes of attaining this reward.
They meet a charismatic woman traveling from small town to town preaching religion, laying down hands, and seeming to cure people. Odie and the other children, except for Robert, come to trust this woman, and Odie does learn that God is not vengeful, and that life is often a series of obstacles that one overcomes through a faith in the almighty.
Told with beautiful simple prose and images so vivid, this book is heartily recommended to those who so enjoy a simple story told in an eloquent manner.
Thanks to William Kent Krueger, Atria Books, and Net Galley for a copy of this book due out in early September.