TITLE : The Four Winds
AUTHOR : Kristin Hannah
GENRE : Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
FR RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐(3.5 – 4 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : 2nd February 2021
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Pan Macmillan for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Elsa was said to be born with a heart condition and was kept home like a prized possession but without the care one gives it. She has never experienced freedom or autonomy until one day inspired by the brave woman in the books she read, she decides to take it for herself. She goes from being sheltered and treated poorly to being thrown out of the house for her behavior. Due to the turn of events, Elsa is forced to marry a guy with whom she spent her time with. With both of their lives in chaos and as choices are taken away from them, Elsa is determined to make the best of the situation and turn it around. She becomes an integral part of the Martinelli’s life becoming indispensable and works so hard to be a more capable woman. By learning and living to contribute to the house she makes a space for herself and slowly gains confidence. While her relationship with the in-laws flourished, the one with her husband’s deteriorated as each day passed by. Two young kids, farm life, and family kept her content and happy for the first time in her life. Drought happened and the crops one by one started to fail. With years of no rain, they couldn’t make any money off their land. Years of food preserves and stocks were getting less and less with no means to replenish them. We see the fear and uncertainty of the family and each summer being hotter than before, dust storms ravaging the lands, people falling sick, Elsa has to make the hard decision of leaving the home she knows and go in search of the land where she can give her kids a better life. California does not want people coming from other states and the issues they face are now not just hunger, starvation, or lack of basic necessities, but on top of all of this, they have to deal with the inhuman and unfair treatment by the often natives of California towards people who came for a better life. Can Elsa make a home for herself in California despite the prejudices against her people? Or will she be forced to return home back to Texas?
The story was very touching and the situations these people had to go through were quite tough. It is unimaginable and the camping ground life was harsh and offered them no protection against the elements. Water, sanitation, or even food was scarce r minimal with families having no choice but to starve or leave again hoping they will find a place that will offer them solutions. The government does not help, people of the states who took in the refugees were abusing the people. Basic human rights were denied and we see their hardships and feel the pain and shame they felt as it was our own.
The writing was really good and it descriptive and set the atmosphere to perfection. The depiction of the summers, long droughts, dust storms, the life on camping grounds felt very real and it’s hard to shake the despair away. While I loved the premise and the way the story was told, there were moments I found Hannah was telling us rather than showing us the circumstances. Sometimes she would give us a situation and all of a sudden the characters were skilled to deal with it within a few days. I would have appreciated them struggling and seeing it on the page rather than seeing them do it perfectly. Oftentimes, food was told to be scarce, and then we see them eating much more elaborate meals than you would expect considering the circumstances. Now, these are not, make it or break it moments, but they did take me out of the story and make me ask questions like where did that come from? How do they have money for that? Or how did she learn this so quickly, when most of the time she was running off in a huff? It felt unrealistic to me to see these moments and stood out because of the contrarieties.
The pacing was slow as is common for the genre. I like slower-paced books and so this was perfect for me. The writing as I mentioned was very descriptive and managed to capture the realities of the time and I loved it. When it comes to the characters, Elsa and Loreda are the main voices we hear through the story and it is their perspectives that make the story it is. Loreda is willful and hot-headed and takes after her father. She wants to fight against injustice and oppression, whereas Elsa is more passive in her approach to life. She is willing to go through the motions and be content with whatever she has. I saw so much of my mother’s and grandmother’s generation in her. She was so used to being not assertive in her life that in moments where she wanted to fight, it always came with its own complications. Whereas Loreda seemed like a teenager who was a dreamer and a fighter dived headfirst without setting up a plan. Both personalities were two extremes and the clashes were very volatile. I have seen this dynamic so much around me that it didn’t feel like an impossibility to me to understand that there are people who are like this in real life. All the characters felt realistic and that to me was a huge plus. The clash of ideals and morals and how it affects people’s decision-making is quite visible. The ending of the story made me feel hopeful, and it didn’t come as a shock to see how it ended. I am happy to have read the book to learn about the struggles and hardships of people during Great Depression Era. This part of the history of America is not familiar to me, as I am not from the US.
Overall, I really liked the story and what it set out to do. It would have been a 4.5 – 5 star read for me if it wasn’t for the things I mentioned earlier. As these are things related and important to the plot and character development of the story, I had to give the book a rating of 3.5 – 4 stars. Don’t let my rating keep you away from this book, and I still believe this is a fantastic read and if you love slow-paced, character journeys through momentous times in history, definitely pick this one up. Or if you are a fan of Kristin Hannah, you might want to check this one out. Kristin Hannah has been an author on my list for some time now. I really need to get to her other books.
Which one should be my next Kristin Hannah read? Let me know in the comment section down below.
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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.
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.