The Four Winds – Book Review
The Four Winds
by Kristin Hannah
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: 2021
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Social Justice, Sociology
HB&W Rating: 3.75
View on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.
In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras—the Great Depression.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
It wasn’t the fear that mattered in life. It was the choices made when you were afraid. You were brave because of your fear, not in spite of it.
It’s my belief that good books are diverting and can take you to a place outside of where you are in the real world, but great books are those that make you think, that challenge you to re-evaluate what you know, that change your viewpoint, that teach you something. Few authors are able to deliver on greatness time after time, but Kristin Hannah appears to be one of those authors.
Once again, Hannah takes us on a journey through time straight to the heart of another trial of human history, the Dust Bowl. I vaguely remember discussing the Dust Bowl during US History class, but it was almost more of a footnote to the Great Depression.
Hannah brings to life with vivid detail the dilemma facing farmers in the Dust Bowl as she tells the story of Elsa Martinelli and her family. The family farm was meant to be a legacy, but staying was killing them, so Elsa takes her daughter and young son on the road to California in hopes of a better life. Met with derision and prejudice, they live the life of migrant workers where the odds are stacked against them and the system is rigged to keep them subservient and dependent on the big growers.
The settings of the book are done astonishingly well, as we have come to expect with Kristin Hannah. Reading the descriptions of the dust caked in their throats and the need to sleep in gas masks was so real to me I found myself clearing my throat compulsively as a result. And in the ditch camp, I felt like I was there, so vivid was the imagery.
The story follows Elsa and her daughter and explores the relationship between them. Mother/daughter relationships are tough, and with the added circumstances of their situation, that relationship is tested like never before. But I thought that it was done very well. I found myself both admiring and getting frustrated at both of them for different things, but altogether, I think this portrayal of their faults and virtues showed exactly what human nature is, and in the end, human nature is about resilience. It seemed like hit after hit kept coming for Elsa and her family, as they struggled to hold on to first their American dream then their very lives, and still show the courage and conviction to stand up for what they believe in and carry on.
Jack says that I am a warrior and, while I don’t believe it, I know this: A warrior believes in an end she can’t see and fights for it. A warrior never gives up. A warrior fights for those weaker than herself. It sounds like motherhood to me.
While I really loved this novel and think that once again Hannah delivered to us another stunning portrayal of human strength and perseverance, this book didn’t quite have the same magic as The Nightingale or The Great Alone. I can’t really put my finger on it, but there it is. I will say part of it was that didn’t care for the romance angle that was thrown in there toward the end. It felt off to me, and I didn’t think that it really added much to the story except to give a couple good lines, but that wasn’t all of it. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because we got more out of the endings of the other two books than we did with this one. Still, it was a phenomenal book and I highly recommend it. Read it, you might learn something. 😉
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