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Book Notes | This Tender Land

October 21, 2022, at 2pm

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger is an epic coming-of-age story set in Minnesota during the summer of 1932. Krueger, a masterful storyteller, takes the reader on a mesmerizing journey to follow the adventures of four vagabond children who escape the abusive horrors of the Lincoln Indian Training School and sneak away in a canoe across the state to reach the Mississippi River in search of a home. 

The narrator is a gifted storyteller and harmonica player named Odie O’Banion. In his 80s, he looks back on his life at the boarding school, and the heartbreaking events, places, and people the four children endured as they canoed that fateful summer when Odie was 12 going on 13.

Accompanied by his older brother Albert, a mute Sioux Indian boy called Mose, and Emmy, a sweet young orphan girl, Odie tells tales of evangelist tent revivals, faith healers, shantytowns, Dust Bowl farm closures, and lost souls. The children come across Sister Eve and her traveling tent revivals, where she holds nightly meetings that conclude with a call for the afflicted to come forward to be healed. Sister Eve changes their lives, but ultimately they move on.

Camping near a makeshift “Hooverville,” the children meet people devastated by the Great Depression, and Odie meets his first true love. As the river takes them into St. Paul, they discover discrimination of another sort and find their fates changing once again. Throughout the novel the boys are pursued by the law and the superintendent of the Lincoln Indian Training School for escaping and kidnapping Emmy.

Krueger has called this his Huckleberry Finn. Evoking Twain, Dickens, and Homer, this novel tells a story of faith, soul, and hope. UMRA Book Club members unanimously enjoyed reading it and said this book was a page-turner they couldn’t put down. While several felt some of the stories were implausible, others felt this is a book that invites you to go with the flow—like the river it is set on. Educational, this is a must read.

—Mary Jane Towle, UMRA Book Club I member




Book Club I to meet October 21

Fri, Oct 21 2022, 2pm

Event to be held via Zoom.

Mary Jane Towle will lead the discussion of This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, October 21.

Email Pat Tollefson for more information, including suggestions for starting a new book club.

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