The Four Winds
By Kristin Hannah
Author Website: kristinhannah(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
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. (Goodreads)
The Four Winds tells the gut-wrenching tale of farmer Elsa as she navigates through the anguish, uncertainties, and life threatening decisions of the Dust Bowl era. Elsa’s tale is ultimately a story of the undying love of a mother and survival.
Readers meet Elsa as a lonely, neglected, sickly teenager desperate to live a little. When her choices have great consequences, she finds herself banished from her family’s wealthy life and married to a farmer. Though it is not the life she ever envisioned, she finds herself well suited for the hard work and structure of farm life. But, over the years life is far from idyllic with the country deep in the depths of the Great Depression and the Texas Panhandle farmers facing unprecedented drought and dust storms. After her husband abandons her, his children, and his parents, Elsa, desperate for a better life for her children, sets out on the harrowing journey across the country to California. However, California is not the great land of opportunity it was promised to be, and Elsa and her children face discrimination, homelessness, and starvation. Ever hopeful that their circumstances will improve, Elsa shows incredible inner strength to carry on.
This is obviously not a light, breezy read. It is heavy and relentless. Intentionally relentless so that readers feel the desperation to the breaking point of the characters’ plight. I did not simply read The Four Winds but endured all the trials alongside Elsa, felt the suffocating gritty dust, the hunger, the loss…one defeat after another…the hope that things will at last get better. Poverty, despair, and even the dust, are characters in their own right. I could not help but think of my grandparents and their own journey from Texas to California. Author Kristin Hanna’s words made their experience all the more real for me. My admiration for them has grown because of Elsa’s story. Hanna’s words stay with you long after you read the last page.
The Four Winds is an immersive, important read about a devastating time in American history that we should always remember. Highly recommended.