Sunday, January 24, 2021

Book Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

 I attended a virtual event with the author recently and someone asked about the seeming variety of her last three books, and how they all seem so different from each other: The Nightingale, The Great Alone, and now The Four Winds. But then a theme was called out that crosses them all and I loved it as it made them all make sense: they're about women having to find inner strength during difficult times. And what better book to read during the winter of 2021, as we're all hoping for a return to normalcy, but it's not here yet?

Elsa was sick as a child and has been beyond-babied by her family ever since. They won't let her go out or do anything. They think she's incapable of taking care of herself and won't let her try. Once night she makes herself a new dress in the fashionable new styles of the twenties, and sneaks out of the house. She meets a handsome young man and they have a brief love affair. Naturally, she ends up pregnant. Her family kicks her out and so she shows up on the Martinelli doorstep. Despite her being several years older, Rafe makes an honest woman out of her and they even have another child. They seems to have had a pretty good life, living on the family farm with his parents. But as the story jumps ahead to 1934, things are bad as anyone with even a passing understanding of US history would expect. 

In the panhandle of Texas, dust storms are a constant occurrence. Everyone wears a bandanna or scarf around their neck to pull up as a mask as soon as it's needed. The family goes from struggling to keep their crops and animals, to struggling to keep themselves alive. The government promises help, but it's too late and not enough. Then Elsa has to make a decision, and so they pack up and try their luck in California. 

We don't see the beginning of the Depression in this novel, nor the end. But I think a whole lot more people now understand the Depression than did just two years ago. Elsa never wanted to be in these situations and this wasn't the life she saw for herself. But she does the best she can with the hand she's dealt, over and over. She's a thin woman who was once sickly, and she has a deep well of inner strength she never even knew she had. During our own troubled times, it's nice to see another story of strength during hardship. 

Personally, in the past I've found Ms. Hannah's endings to be too pat for me, too tied up in a bow, but this one was not. I think she's achieved a new level in her writing. I'm glad I read this. It gave me hope.

This book is published by St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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