THIS TENDER LAND by William Kent Krueger: A Review

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.

a wonderful captivating novel

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!


Advertisement

READ AN E-BOOK DAY: Sunday, September 18th

I began reading an e-book on my Kindle during my Labor Day Readathon.

group people worker professionals labor day vector illustration

I chose one I had won in a blogger’s giveaway, Dead of Winter Break, a cozy mystery by Kelly Brakenhoff. In this second book in a series (which read just fine as a stand-alone) Cassandra Soto, an administrator at a Nebraska college has begun her second semester there after living in warm Hawaii. She has her first, unwelcome, taste of Nebraska winters. She and Murphy, an unwanted dog, live in a house that is damaged by a Nebraska storm. Sean Gill, one of the love interests involved in this story, is a neighbor’s son, visiting for the Holidays. Or is he? Is he there for some other reason, and does he get involved in the fixing of Cassandra’s house for some other reason than neighborliness? The head of Campus Police, Andy Summers, is another love interest who keeps Cassandra apprised of all campus matters, since she is in charge during the Holidays.

At the December commencement, attended by Cassandra and her sleuthing buddy, Cinda, they spot Dr. Nielson, who supposedly retired and moved to Florida. It turns out Nielson, who had supervised a student/faculty trip to China the past semester, has changed his mind about retiring and has returned to the small college town. Wondering how his return will affect her promotion and plans, Cassandra attempts to get in touch with him, but before she can do so, he is murdered.

Forced to live in the dorm with the International students and those who cannot go home for the Holidays, Cassandra becomes the “dorm mother” to the students who connect with Murphy in a way she has been unable to do thus far. The relationships between the students and between the students and Cassandra provide clues and suspects into Dr. Nielson’s demise.

There are a good number of twists and turns that keeps the reader turning pages–whoops! scrolling right. LOL that provide red herrings and many suspects in the affair.

It is a darned good read .

o

FRIDAY FIRSTLINERS

READING IS MY SUPERPOWER DESIGNED THIS COOL MEME.

This week’s Friday Firstliner comes from William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land:

“Prologue”

“In the beginning, after he labored over the heavens and the earth, the light and the dark, the land and the sea and all living things that dwell therein, after he created man and woman and before he rested, I believe God gave us one final gift. Lest we forget the divine source of all that beauty, he gave us stories.”

Krueger is indeed a master story teller, and I am looking forward to the story he will tell in his latest novel.

I had to wait for this book to come available at my local library, but knowing it is by the author of Saving Grace, I am sure the wait will be worth it.

ACCORDION CRIMES by E. Annie Proulx: A Review

The Shipping News was one of my favorite books–ever. This novel, Accordion Crimes

by the same author was not as engaging but a darned good read in its own right. The metaphor or theme was pure genius: a small green accordion which was passed from owner to owner over the decades, and character sketches of its various owners.

Written in 1996, the novel has been called by critics, “a masterpiece of storytelling.” It begins in 1890s’ Sicily, where the accordion maker fashions the small, elegant accordion. He and his son immigrate to America with dreams of opening a music store. They come to live in New Orleans, and when the accordion maker is murdered, the green accordion falls into the hands of someone who carried it onward to Iowa, then to Texas.

The music of the accordion is the “last link to their pasts ” for Mexicans, Africans, Poles, Germans, Norwegians, Irish, Basques, and Franco Canadians, as the instrument moves from owner to owner, family to family. It “becomes their voice[s] for their fantasies, sorrows, and exuberance[s],” all of which Proulx shares with the reader. The novel introduces many, many characters, each a representative of their ethnicity as the accordion travels across the continent and back. There is a surprise ending, which brings the reader’s memory all the way back to a forgotten event/detail. This novel is a darned good read.

A REAL CHALLENGE

Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness was a real challenge to read.

A “different” book

To begin with, the narrator of this novel is a Book. Yes, you read that right, a book; a story, the story of Benny Oh, a young boy who hears the voice of the Book, his story. His mother Annabelle, is never the same after the death of Benny’s father, who is killed in a grotesque accident–meaningless and bizarre. In the novel she becomes a recluse and a hoarder. Benny takes “refuge [from his strange life] in the silence of a large public library.”He meets a homeless, wheelchair-bound philosopher and poet and a mesmerizing young woman, both classified as imaginary friends by the psychiatrist who takes on Benny’s case, but who turn out to be real people he met at the library. (Even the reader comes to doubt Benny for one awful moment–I did.)

There is a run in with CPS, incarceration in a mental hospital for Benny, and a job loss for Annabelle. All of these semi-unrelated events come together in an implausible but satisfying ending. The novel is at times humorous, and at times heartbreaking . Above all, the book is difficult to read, and I am still trying to decide whether sticking with it was worth the huge effort.

BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry: A Review

A 2022 publication that deals with the publishing industry

Nora Stephens, an agent who almost always gets the best deals for her clients has been dumped at the beginning of the story. She misses her mother, who has died and feels responsible for her younger sister, Libby, but lives a driven life as a career woman. She meets Charlie, a hot-shot editor, for lunch only to be told he doesn’t want anything to do with her client’s latest effort. Their relationship develops along the lines of “a small-town love story” with “all the familiar tropes–” “hot-shot from NY or LA gets shipped off to Small town USA–to, like, run a family [owned business].” This outsider falls for a small-town farm/business “person who has true values and stays forever” on account of him/her.

The Nora-Charlie plot follows the “plot” of a fictional novel, Once in a Lifetime, which Nora is promoting and Charlie is forced by his publishing house to edit. Nora thinks to herself early on, “Charlie doesn’t want to work with me, and I don’t want” to work with him. Their relationship begins as a dislike and builds almost to hate category, all the while feeling a strong physical attraction which neither wants to admit. This makes for humorous miscommunications and misunderstandings. In this instance, both protagonists are Big City people, thrown together in tiny Sunshine Falls. A second love interest for Nora, Shepherd, a farmer with a heart of gold turns out to be Charlie’s cousin, which further complicates matters.

As you can tell, there are frequent twists and turns which all the while are underscored with a strong passion that torments both parties afflicted.

It is a modern romance complete with likable/unlikeable main characters and interesting secondary characters who fill out the novel’s cast. I checked this book out of my local library after reading a lot of positive reviews about it. I was only slightly disappointed.

CHALLENGE UPDATE

ONE OF MY 2022 READING CHALLENGES WAS TO READ 22 NOVELS IN 2022

TODAY I updated my Reading Log and filled in titles on my 2022 challenges. To my delight, I discovered I had FINISHED the Novel Challenge to read 22 novels from January to December. Actually, to date I have read 26 novels.

Novels are one of my main passions. At one time in my life, I read ONLY novels.

Here they are in the order I read them:

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz, the sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe/ Summer by Edith Wharton, which I also used for the “What’s in a Name reading challenge and could have used for the Classics Club / Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac, a novel in verse which I read for the Cybil’s judging/ The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, a lovely literary love story/ Interior China Town by Charles Yu, which was a book club selection for my Page Turners book club/ The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington, which taught me a great deal about Buddhism / The Van Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant, a sweet, gentle story/ The Dependents by Katherine Dion, a contemporary novel/ The Paris Library, based on the brave people who kept the Paris Library open during the occupation of Germany in WWII, told in novel form/ Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristin Higgins, an author I have come to seek out/ The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Bully, a YA novel and a thriller/ Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, also used for The Classics Club/ The City We Became by N.K. Jeminsin, my new favorite sci-fi novel and the first in a series I look forward to reading / Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell, a book that taught me what fan fiction was/ French Braid by Anne Tyler, one of my favorite authors/ Welcome to the School by the Sea by Jenny Colgan, a YA novel about a British boarding school/ The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, also used for The Classics Club and a Third Tuesday Book Club selection / The Children Act by Ian McEwan, first read then watched the film version/ Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson, a thriller that had me holding my breath/ At Least You Have Your Health by Madi Sinha, a women’s novel/ Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland, an audio Book about Books/ Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly, the prequel to Lilac Girls, which I read last year/ Book Lovers by Emily Henry, a novel about the publishing industry/ Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx, the only disappointment on this list/ The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, a novel narrated by a Book/ Arcadia by Lauren Groff about Hippies on a commune in the 70s.

Whew! That’s a lot of fine reading! What a good feeling to have one challenge finished for this year. Stay tuned to find out the total number of novels read in 2022.

Thanks to Evin for my elegant sign off.

AT LEAST YOU HAVE YOUR HEALTH by Madi Sinha: A Review

I receive so many of the books I enjoy through trades with friends, donations from neighbors to my Little Free Library that I do not usually buy a book outright just for me to read. This one I ordered through Amazon because the magazine recommendation, for it sounded fresh and appealed to me.

Unusual characters, unusual plot, but familiar themes

This 2022 release begins with a peek at the home life of Maya Rao, a 36 year old gynecologist of Indian ethnicity, who is married to an unflappable college professor and has three kids under the age of 13. Like any mother, she wants only the best for her children, and will accept nothing less than greatness from them, putting pressure on them and on the family dynamic. To say Maya’s life is frantic would not be an understatement. She is driven, the typical type-A personality, ambitious, and feels guilt at not having enough time for her children. At her eldest daughter’s expensive private school’s car-pick-up line, she meets Amelia DeGilles. DeGilles is the wealthy, perfection-incarnate owner of a private health care company. She makes Maya an offer she can’t refuse, and even though Maya has misgivings about the new-age, very expensive health services, the money is too much to turn down. She takes Esther, her nurse-assistant from her current women’s clinic job and begins to practice women’s health services to rich, status-seeking, social climbing women.

When one of her clients takes Maya and Esther along as she seeks a “sea-birth” in Belize for her baby, things get exciting and dangerous for all involved. The ending is satisfying, and in the end Maya makes a good decision about her career and her family, and is even rewarded for rearranging her priorities.

I read this in a ebook, and it went very fast, always keeping my attention with action and touches of humor like the scene where Maya and the kids go through an automatic car wash with the windows down ,near the beginning, or the daughter’s description of a bullying mother as looking like the Little Mermaid. Overall, this book was refreshing and even delivered a couple of timely “messages” subtly as it unfolded an interesting plot.

Thanks to Reading Is My Superpower for allowing me to borrow their meme.

HERE’S MY FRIDAY FIRSTLINER FOR JUNE 17TH on Friday night.

“Evie Stone sat alone in her tiny bedsitter at the north end of Castle Street, as far from the colleges as a student could live and still be keeping term at Cambridge. But Evie was no longer a student–she remained at the university on borrowed time. The next forty minutes would decide how much she had left…”

This novel is from the author of The Jane Austin Society.

The quote above is from this 2022 novel by an author I have enjoyed before. I checked it out from my local library and can’t wait to start it!

Thanks to the Purple Booker for this fun meme.

Today’s Tuesday Teaser is from a novel I finished last night . Anne Tyler is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and I have read most of what she’s written over the years.

Definitely one of Tyler’s best novels yet. She just keeps on getting better as the years go by.

The teaser is from the two main characters, Mercy and Robin recalling their sweet, innocent wedding night. Robin says…

” ‘…And then you came out of the bathroom in your slinky white satin nightie.’

‘And you looked away,’ Mercy said. ‘You looked off toward the bedroom window.’

‘I was trying to get control of myself, ‘ he said.’ “

Tyler is at her best doing what she does best here–describing the lives of ordinary middle-aged people. The book has been described as a “journey into one family’s foibles from the 1950s up to our pandemic present.” It deals with family complexities and the “kindnesses and cruelties of our daily life.” Even in the smallest details, Tyler captures the dailyness of our lives. Take for example when Mercy and Robin’s grown kids would come to visit, the first thing Robin would ask was, “How was the traffic on the beltway?” It reminded me that each time we would go to visit our folks in Virginia after marrying and relocating in Texas, the first thing everyone would ask was, “How long are you here for?”

Mercy and Robin Garret and their children Allie, Lily, and David are the well-developed characters in this 2022 novel. Their development and changes in character are demonstrative of Tyler’s forte, characterization. Of any contemporary author, Tyler does this best. Personally, I choose characterization over plot any day to peak and hold my interest, and perhaps this is the reason I enjoy Anne Tyler’s novels so much.

I highly recommend this “darned good read.”