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The Tender Land: A Family Love Story Paperback – June 11, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (June 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618340742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618340743
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #981,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This sensitive, restrained memoir searches for answers to the most painful of questions: Why would a bright, athletic, seemingly well-adjusted boy like Kathleen Finneran's 15-year-old brother want to take his own life? Sean Finneran's 1971 suicide is the pivotal crisis in The Tender Land, but not the only one. References to a family strain of depressive mental illness sound a warning note; Finneran's maternal grandfather probably killed himself, and her mother is subject to severe bouts of depression that may also have afflicted Sean, whose suicide note reveals a self-hatred that the love of his parents and siblings could not assuage. The author frankly relates her own problems with weight, an inexplicable but irresistible urge to shoplift, and uncertain sexual orientation. But Finneran's precise prose, rich in evocative physical details, convincingly limns an ordinary, generally happy Midwestern family: five children spread over 16 years; a devout, nature- and animal-loving mother; a father who communicated best without words, rooted in "his faith in materials men make of the earth." There are no villains and no answers in this heartbreaking book, which respects the essential mystery of a shattering tragedy and closes with an affirmative message to Sean: "I want to call out your name and tell you, across the tender land, that we have gone on living." --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Unforgettable in its restraint and quiet beauty, Finneran's debut memoir lovingly reveals her family's tragic history and her own painful coming of age. Born in the late 1950s into an Irish Catholic family, she and her four siblings had a comfortable life in suburban St. Louis, thanks to her mother's thrifty management and her father's success as a salesman. But depression and suicide ran in the family and the question of what caused her youngest brother Sean's suicide when he was 15 permeates the book as much as it has haunted the Finnerans--Kathleen was also disposed to depression and another sister tried to overdose at age 28. As a self-conscious, overweight child, the author at times felt ignored by her parents. Nonetheless, at a young age she understood the need to protect her mother from sorrow, so she "made up stories." Sadly for the author, her first sexual experience coincided with the night Sean died, making sex and death forever inextricable for her. She found comfort with a woman lover who was her best friend, despite her mother's cautious warning about being "different." Readers will relish Finneran's skill in capturing her characters. "My mother," she writes, "ends each day this way, dusting in the dark, and in the morning, as soon as she wakes, she dusts again, in daylight." To Sean's suicide note, which disclosed teenage loneliness and disappointments, Finneran offers an exquisite counterpoint in the form of this love letter. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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It is that beautifully written and that beautiful in its sentiment!
T. Young
A few months after the class, though, I decided to pick up the book and read it.
Jad (TJ) Duwaik
Your emotions will run the scales from deepest grief to glorious release.
A. Barasch

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By T. Young on May 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an incredibly beautiful book. I found myself actually making noises out loud (sighs, wistful "ahs") while reading it! It is that beautifully written and that beautiful in its sentiment!
The author does an amazing job in detailing her struggle to come not only to accept herself, but also to accept her brother's death (by suicide). She slowly peels away layers of her family history and the details of what led her brother to commit such a desperate act. I found this very moving as it allowed me more time to feel I understood him and to question (as everyone does when something like this happens), "Why?"
I really cannot recommend this book enough. I hope you simply do yourself a favor and buy it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By JAN BURKHARDT on September 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Many reviews quote"heart-rendering" . This is the book the quote was coined for. You will ache for this family and their tragedy. You will want to know how they move forward and on with their lives and you will care. The writing is superb and probably one of the best in this genre I have ever read.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This may be the best book of any kind that I have ever read. Finneran's profound exploration of family love is so true, so wise, so powerful. In line after line I recognized truths about my own family that I did not realize I knew. Her own family comes alive in this beautifully written memoir, but it is our family that we end up thinking about in new ways. What a gift.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it came out several years ago and just finished it for the second time and still can't believe how powerful the story is and how well the book is written. I knew Sean (Kathleen's younger brother) all the way through grade school and went to his house several times to visit him over the years. I considered myself a close friend of Sean's and never realized what was going on his life until reading this book. I always wondered why a young, extremely bright, good looking kid would even contemplate such a fate. It's extremely well written and I would recommend it to anyone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Melanie Bishop on August 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the most gorgeous book I've read in a decade, seriously. I am a writer and I have taught college-level creative writing and literature for the past thirteen years. While researching a reading list for my class in reading and writing the memoir, it was my good fortune, and that of my students, to happen upon Finneran's book. I used the book that semester, and am using it again this fall for the same class. Aside from being a literary gem, the book provides rich opportunities to teach about writing well. It's lovely, poetic, searingly candid, exquisitely scenic. Every single character is painted in full detail, adding up to the portrait of a family who has lost something big.
I highly recommend this book. If this world had half a brain, it would be on the bestseller list.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Amara VINE VOICE on December 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It has been a good long while since I've read a book as well written as The Tender Land. Finneran writes in a style that seems to be unaffected by other books covering this sort of topic---a family tragedy. She writes without sensationalism or blaring confrontations about a family that is basically kind, decent and loving, but haunted by what they call "the sadness"---depression that affects them generation after generation. By going back and forth in time, we learn by the end so much about this caring and unique family, and how they managed to go on after losing one of their own.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Julie L. Shaffer on November 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Kathleen Finneran's debut novel, "The Tender Land" is unforgettable in its restraint and quiet beauty. Finneran's words lovingly reveal her family's tragic history and her own painful coming of age. She deals with her 15-year-old brother Sean's suicide by sharing this memoir with others as a love letter to him.
"I realized I needed to write about my brother's death in a way that was more intentional than tangential. I started out in the form I was comfortable with, writing an autographical essay that was submerged in more objective prose, in this case an essay that explored my mother's real belief that my brother was an angel by comparing his qualities to those angels that exist in literature - Thomas Aquinas on angels, Dante Milton," explained Finneran. "The end result was something that seemed very artificial, and I felt my brother deserved better from me. So I just started writing what I wanted to remember about him, free from any form or genre constraints; in doing that, in taking the simplest and mot direct approach, I learned to write about his death, I had to write about his life, and to write about his life, I had to write about my whole family."
Finneran was born in 1957 into an Irish Catholic family. She and her four siblings, an older brother and sister, Michael and Mary, and a younger brother and sister, Sean and Kelly, had a comfortable life in suburban St. Louis. Depression and suicide ran in the family. Kathleen suffered from depression and her sister, Kelly, tried to overdose at age 28.
Finneran's first sexual experience coincided with the night Sean died, making sex and death forever inextricable for her. She slept with a man. "How could I tell Mary what that weekend was for me, making love to a woman the next.
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