About the Book:
From the number-one bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes a powerful American epic about love and heroism and hope, set during the Great Depression, a time when the country was in crisis and at war with itself, when millions were out of work and even the land seemed to have turned against them.
“My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.”
Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.
By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.
In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.
The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it—the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, 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.
“How can we call ourselves the land of the free when people are living on the streets and dying of hunger?”
The Four Winds could not be more timely. I listened to the audiobook narrated expertly by Julia Whelan and if you have the chance to purchase or borrow this book, don’t wait. This equals The Great Alone, which is one of my favorite books ever.
I admit I did not know a lot about the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and this anguished part of America’s history. But even with the heavy subject matter, I fell in love with Elsa and Loreda and the harsh landscape of the Texas plains. The courage and the sheer will to survive of Kristin Hannah’s characters is breathtaking.
The Four Winds grabbed me from the very beginning. I reveled in Julia Whelan’s brilliant narration! Elsa is an unforgettable character. She grows up in a strict family, never feeling love or kindness, and feels the sharp sting of rejection over and over. She very unexpectedly finds herself living with a farm-owning family and learns to love the land as they do. But times are harsh, and the level of desperation experienced by families in the grips of the Dust Bowl is completely overwhelming. There is no food and no money and no way for Texans of this era to make a living. Government programs are in their infancy. Elsa, who never thought of herself as anything special, must set out on the most dangerous journey of her life.
“Apparently you couldn’t stop loving some people, or needing their love, even when you knew better.”
I felt the fear, hunger and sheer desperation of these characters. Even a cup of beans or a pair of used shoes were luxuries. The prejudice experienced by Americans who migrated to California during this time was absolutely brutal and heartbreaking. What these families experienced, from the deadly dust storms, to hunger, cold, violence and illness, was stunning. I will never forget Elsa and her courageous life.
<“Courage is fear you ignore.”
A fantastic bonus with the audiobook is that the author and narrator discuss the book at the end. (Warning: It contains spoilers!) Put The Four Winds on your must-read list. It is an epic, breathtaking story.
“The four winds have blown us here, people from all across the country, to the very end of this great land. And now, at last, we make our stand, fight for what we know to be right. We fight for our American dream, that it will be possible again.”