This Tender Land Summary, Characters & Themes [William Kent Krueger]

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This Tender Land Analysis

This Tender Land is a historical book set in the summer of 1932 during the Great Depression.

The story follows four orphaned children, Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy, who escape from the Lincoln Indian Training School, a cruel institution where they have endured hardship.

They started off on a journey down the Mississippi River and encountered many challenges and circumstances.

Book TitleThis Tender Land
AuthorWilliam Kent Krueger
Publication DateSeptember 3, 2019
Pages464 pages
PublisherAtria Books
GenreHistorical Fiction
SettingGreat Depression-era United States
AwardsWinner of the Midwest Book Award for Fiction, 2020
Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel, 2020
Finalist for the Minnesota Book Award for Fiction, 2020

This Tender Land Characters

1. Odie O’Banion – The narrator and protagonist of the story, a young boy with a troubled past.

2. Albert “Mose” Moseley – Odie’s best friend and companion throughout their journey.

3. Emmy Frost – A young girl they meet along the way who joins their group.

4. Sister Eve – A mysterious and unconventional nun who becomes an important figure in their lives.

This Tender Land Themes

  1. Quest for identity and belonging
  2. Redemption and forgiveness
  3. Loss and resilience
  4. Power of friendship and chosen family
  5. Journey of self-discovery and growth
  6. Faith and spirituality
  7. Social injustices and the search for justice
  8. Nature as a source of healing and solace
  9. Coming-of-age and the transition from innocence to experience
  10. Exploring the complexities of the human condition.

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This Tender Land Summary

When 12-year-old Odie O’Banion and his elder brother, Albert, were orphaned in This Tender Land, the owners of Lincoln Indian Training School, Thelma & Clyde Brickman, took them in. Lincoln School, on the other hand, was a challenging and ruthless environment. Eager to escape their captors, Odie, Albert, and their companion Mose rescued Emmy Frost, a recent orphan and friend. Before departing, they took the contents of the Brickmans’ safe. They then took a canoe out on the Minnesota River.

Shortly into their journey, they found that the safe contained over $200 and a series of letters written by the orphans’ family members to the Brickman. In Saint Louis, Albert discovered one letter from their Aunt Julia. They all agreed to go to her house and look for a new place to live. The youngsters were resting by the riverbank when they were startled awake by the presence of a one-eyed guy named Jack. Jack brought them back to his property, imprisoned Emmy and forced the boys to labour in his orchards. They stayed with Jack for a more extended period, and he became more volatile and unpredictable. His drinking did not help matters. Odie later learned that Jack’s wife and daughter had abandoned him. When Jack grew angry one night, Odie shot him in the chest, leaving the companions in their boat.

Odie was disturbed by the murder, believing Jack was a fine man at heart whose grief had changed. The friends eventually arrived in the next town, New Bremen. They listened to an angelic voice while on the bank. They discovered a revival gathering where a woman, Sister Eve, taught about redemption after hearing the music. Several persons were cured during the meeting by Sister Eve. The kids were immediately captivated by her. 

They join the crusade in the coming days, believing they have discovered a sense of home & family with Sister Eve and her troop. However, Odie’s faith is shattered when he finds evidence of Sister Eve’s dishonesty. He thought she was paying off the folks she was meant to treat. Odie was so angry with her for lying that he unleashed one of the crusade’s deadly snakes on her. Instead of biting Sister Eve, the snake hits Albert. Odie despaired, believing his brother would die and blaming himself for every catastrophe he and his companions had endured. Albert, on the other hand, recovered. The Brickmans arrived in town after hearing of Albert’s miraculous escape, causing the four friends to leave again.

Mankato was the next stop for them. Odie visited an encampment in Mankato and met a little girl, Maybeth Schofield, and her family. After spending many days with them, Odie heard of their numerous difficulties, including their inability to go to Chicago with the rest of their family. Odie, wanting to assist, handed Mr Schofield his last $40 for petrol. He recognized at that point that his generosity would result in Maybeth’s departure and the end of their brief romance.

Odie fought to keep his spirits up after losing Maybeth. The group went on to the West Side Flats, where they met to work at a diner owned by Gertie. Albert made friends with two boat repairers and became at ease. Mose & Emmy also wanted to stay in the Flats. Odie, on the other hand, was dead set on reaching Saint Louis. He proceeded on his own, feeling lonely. He was surprised to learn that his aunt managed a brothel in Saint Louis.

When Odie ran upon Sister Eve again in town, he rejoined the crusade and left his aunt behind. Aunt Julia disclosed that she was Odie’s biological mother before he could tell her his plan. The Brickmans came shortly after. Thelma and Julia had previously worked together and had a spectacular and violent quarrel that resulted in both of them tumbling out of a window. Thelma passed away, but Julia lived.

In the years that followed, Julia converted her house into a clothes boutique, creating a home for Odie, Albert, Mose and Julia.

This Tender Land FAQs

What is the book This Tender Land about?

This Tender Land is a book by William Kent Krueger that follows four orphans on a journey across the Midwest during the Great Depression, seeking freedom and a sense of home.

Is This Tender Land a religious book?

No, “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger is not a religious book. It is a historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression.

Is This Tender Land based on a true story?

No, “This Tender Land” is a work of fiction written by William Kent Krueger and is not based on a true story.

Why is the book called this tender land?

The book is called “This Tender Land” to evoke a sense of vulnerability, compassion and the delicate journey of its characters through challenging circumstances.

What happened at the end of This Tender Land?

Odie, Albert and Emmy reunite with their loved ones and find a sense of belonging, healing and hope after a journey full of hardships and self-discovery.

About the Author– William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land Summary
Full NameWilliam Kent Krueger
Date of BirthNovember 16, 1950
GenreMystery, Crime Fiction, Thriller
Famous Works-Ordinary Grace (2013)
-Iron Lake (1998)
Notable Awards– Edgar Award for Best Novel (2014) for “Ordinary Grace”
– Anthony Award for Best First Novel (1999) for “Iron Lake”
Popular SeriesCork O’Connor series
EducationMaster’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota
Other ProfessionsWilliam Kent Krueger has also worked as a journalist and a freelance writer.

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