William Kent Krueger is one of my favorite authors, and I respect him for his wonderful writing as well as his versatility. He has said that he always wanted to write his version of Huckleberry Finn, and in Tender Land, He has done just that.
This novel is “the unforgettable story of four orphans who travel the Mississippi River on a life-changing odyssey during The Great Depression.” It begins in Minnesota in 1932. It is a fast-paced page-turner, a big hearted book that has an outstanding ending and a closure-providing epilogue.
Odie O’Bannon and his brother, Albert, are sent as the only white boys to the Lincoln Indian Training School when they are orphaned. Why and how this happened is a mystery revealed in the very last pages. Odie is of a “lively nature,” which often gets him in trouble and sent to solitary confinement, the “quiet room.” Albert is older than Odie and his opposite, logical, mechanically-gifted, and eager to please because he recognizes the benefits of doing so.
After an incident at the school and a catastrophic tornado, the brothers escape, pursued by school officials, police, and authorities.They take Mose, another boy from the school, a Native American , and little Emmy, the daughter of the school’s teacher who was the only person kind to the three boys. Emmy has been orphaned by the tornado.She is pursued by the vicious headmistress who hates the boys and wants to enslave Emmy. The four children escape in an old canoe with the contents of the school’s safe, not only some money but incriminating papers reflecting fraud and corruption.
Along their journey, the children meet struggling farmers, traveling faith-healers, and Hooverville residents. Close calls and capture are too many to count, and the novel is filled with adventure, melancholy, and suspense.
It is a darned good read!