In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, Odie O’Banion is an orphan confined to the Lincoln Indian Training School, a pitiless place where his lively nature earns him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee after committing a terrible crime, he and his brother, Albert, their best friend, Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own in This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger.
Over the course of one summer, these four orphans journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. Through perseverance, courage and luck, the four make their way to St Louis where Odie and Albert believe their aunt lives. What the four of them experience along their journey shapes and changes them in profound ways, as well as providing us with a glimpse of Depression era America.
The cruelty and oppression that the children faced at the Indian school is heartbreaking although the true depth of the corruption is revealed in bits and pieces. The narrow escapes and unexpected lucky breaks make this an exciting and absorbing book, all overlaid with the tension of whether Odie and Albert will be able to find their aunt.
If you are taking part in the Online Reading Challenge this year, this book is a good choice for our November theme of issues facing contemporary Native Americans.