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  • Writer's pictureLafourche Parish Public Library

Brooke's Pick: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

A Depression-era woman confronts a wrenching choice between fighting for the Dust Bowl-ravaged land she loves in Texas or pursuing an uncertain future in California.

As if the Great Depression of the 1930s wasn't bad enough, America's farmers had the additional indignity of dirt flung in their eyes by way of the Dust Bowl. It was a time of little ... little prosperity, little sustenance, little hope. Author Kristin Hannah puts pen to page to recreate this unforgettable period of time in her new novel The Four Winds, a story about a formidable, resilient woman who fights against all odds to keep her family alive during one of the darkest periods in American history.

Elsa Walcott was born into a life of privilege on the Texas Plains, but has always been treated as the black sheep of her family due to the fact that she is just not beautiful. At the age of 25, she is considered to be a spinster by the day's standards, with little hope of ever marrying and having a family of her own. Nor will her parents entertain her dreams of going to college and having a career. So Elsa decides to rebel, and heads out one night to paint the town red in a scarlet dress to match.

Little does she know that the course of her life is set to change that night in ways she could never imagine. For it is then that she meets the handsome Rafe Martinelli - a local farmboy with big dreams. She marries Rafe and the two start a family, living on his parents' farm and working the land. Life on the farm is prosperous at first, but when hard times hit, everything that Elsa counted on in her life changes. With things growing more dire in Texas by the day, Elsa has to make a life-altering decision. Should she keep her family in Texas amid the wildly volatile and unpredictable dust storms, with no food on the table and little chance of hope, or should she head out to the "land of milk and honey" - California - and the promise of the American Dream?

Admittedly, I did not expect to love The Four Winds as much as I did. Hannah has managed to take dark and depressing subject matter and fill it with heart and hope. To me, the hallmark of a memorable historical fiction novel is one that inspires me to dig into the actual events behind a story - to peruse the history and study photos of the times, learning as much about the time period as I can. Such was the case with The Four Winds - I pulled up pictures of the horrific dust storms that loomed over the Great Plains, I examined images of the squatters' camps in California, and I learned about the blatant, biased discrimination brought upon Americans by Americans during the migrations to California. I was able to draw parallels between now and a time nearly 100 years ago, pondering the ways our country has changed and stayed the same. The Four Winds was as much an educational journey for me as it was a way to enjoyably pass the time. Thus, I can say with confidence that Hannah has done a stellar job in both entertaining and inspiring her readers.

As for The Four Winds' writing, storyline, and characters, none are to leave me anytime soon. This novel is bleak and gritty, yet at the same time full of perseverance and hope. Be prepared to root for the Martinelli family and see them through to the end of this heart-wrenching novel. Hannah's descriptions of life on the Plains and in the camps of California are so evocative and imagined, you will feel like you are seeing it all through your own eyes; that you are on this journey right alongside the Martinelli family. By the time you are finished with this novel, you will be frustrated and in tears for what Elsa and her family went through, and for what all of the brave American men, women, and children faced and fought during the time of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Hats off to Kristin Hannah for vividly bringing to life the people and places of this somber time in American history.

Availability: Book; Large Print Book; Book on CD; Playaway Audiobook; eBook & eAudiobook in cloudLibrary Rating: ***** Stars (I loved it) Reviewer: Brooke, Public Relations Librarian




AWARDS: LibraryReads Favorites: 2021

GENRE: Book Club Best Bets; Historical Fiction

WRITING STYLE: Engaging; Lyrical; Richly Detailed

TONE: Dramatic

LOCATION: California; Texas

TIME PERIOD: Depression Era

SUBJECT: Determination in Women; Dust Bowl Era; Family Relationships; Farm Life; Father Deserted Families; Land Use; Migrant Workers; Mother and Child; Moving to a New State; Strikes



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