This Tender Land
by William Kent Krueger.
Compared by many to Where the Crawdads Sing, Krueger is not quite Owens. This picaresque saga does have elements of Twain and Davies. A poignant journey of four vagabond orphans during the Depression. It captures the horrors of their lives at a Minnesota boarding school for destitute Indian children where the Superintendent known as The Black Witch makes the Witch of the West seem tame. As with rogue-tales, the children encounter a variety of characters during their adventures and setbacks along the Gilead River and beyond.
Krueger’s writing is rich but the narrator’s reminiscence in his later life makes the children’s voices seem too worldly and mature for their ages at the time. Despite that flaw, which could be jarring, this novel was a welcome literary sojourn.