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 neighbours—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)
So, apparently there are people out there that consider books by Kristin Hannah “women’s fiction.” Well, folks, this is news to me. Is everything else “men’s fiction”? What nonsense is this? Now, I don’t want to get into this, but I will let you know that it grinds my gears. I love historical fiction, so I really appreciate stories that take the time to tell stories from a woman’s perspective. However, Hannah takes it up a notch but not only tackling important moments in history, but also exploring female multi-generational relationships. Of course, The Four Winds succeeded on every front.
Now, when it comes to Hannah, I’ve only read The Nightingale, which I loved, and it emotionally destroyed me. Like, there was an ugly cry. I did not sign up for an ugly cry. And while I avoid books that make me cry, I can’t avoid a book that seamlessly incorporates history. Folks, I actually learn things when I read her books. I hope she writes more!
Anyways, I wan’t to say that this book pleasantly surprised me. A weird thing to say since I did just say I loved her other book. Here’s the thing – when it comes to historical fiction, I can be pretty picky. I love books set around the American Civil War, WWI, and WWII. The Four Winds, of course, was none of those things. Set around the Depression, I was actually worried I would be bored. Not that poverty is something to shrug off, but I did wonder how she was going to keep me engaged with characters who will spend most of their time hungry and looking for work. Well, that’s where the Dust Bowl comes in.
There is nothing better than a book that can teach you something. Even better when it gets you interested in learning more. That’s what happened to me. While I have a pretty good grasp on the Depression, I have no idea what people in Texas, New Mexico, and so on were going through. (Give me a break, I’m Canadian.) Anyways, having the enemy being Mother Nature instead of, for example, the Nazis, made for a very tense read. Would it rain today? Would this dust storm kill someone this time? Would the house blow away? What about the cows in the barn?! How do you fight an enemy that has that much power over you? An enemy without a face? How do you protect yourself?
For most of the book, this is the challenge the characters face and it’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. At least, not in the historical fiction genre. But again, my tastes are limited. Of course, the enemy eventually becomes people and that’s where the emotional rollercoasters reaches an all-time high. I have never been more disappointed with people in my entire reading life. (Ok, dramatic and untrue, but you get the point.)
As for the characters. My heart bled for Elsa, but it also beat in frustration. Her communication skills need some work. I understand her parents really did a number on her confidence, but I really needed her to speak up. That’s where she and I are very different. I think it’s because of this difference that I struggled with her. Her mother-in-law Rose, however, was a different matter. There was a no nonsense woman I appreciated. She told it like it was without every being mean about it. That’s always something I admire. Say what needs to be said, but there is no need to be cruel. I am glad she because the mother Else needed. Goodness knows she needed it.
As for Rafe — well, he doesn’t deserve more than this line. I am glad Hannah never brought him back into the picture. A person who just walks away like that doesn’t deserve any more page time than he got. You come in, make a mess, and leave. Pfft. Bye, Felicia!
Overall, I enjoyed reading a book that decided to take on a moment in history that isn’t often written about. War is tragic, but also considered “glorious,” so it gets a lot of attention. Yet, the struggle of hardworking people is just as important. More so when it’s the people others quickly and simply forget. I like to think of these moments in history that are unpopular. I’ve been sucked into this before and plan on making an effort to expand my historical fiction preferences! If you’re like me and love historical fiction, please give this one a read. It’s jammed packed with information that is bound to get you our of a reading slump (if you’re in one) and gobbling up all the books!
Have you read The Four Winds? How do you feel about fiction books that take unpopular topics?