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The Four Winds

by Kristin Hannah

Book Review by Ashley Lewis, HHS Librarian

I should begin by saying that Kristin Hannah is one of my all-time favorite authors! She writes in a way that causes me to crave more information about the era, location, or topic of her stories. Whether it’s life in WWII France and Russia (The Nightingale and Winter Garden), 1970s Alaskan Wilderness (The Great Alone), or in this review, The Great Depression/Dust Bowl, Hannah’s books are really about survival and the human spirit’s fight to persevere.

I have yet to read one of her books that I don’t stop and Google answers to the myriad of questions I have along the way. The same was true for this novel. Before, I had a general knowledge of The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression, but after reading The Four Winds, I feel as though I better understand the extreme conditions and difficulties that families of the Great Plains suffered during this tragic time.

The setting is 1930s Texas Panhandle and Southern California. Elsa Wolcott comes from a prominent Texas family, but they have no love for her; she was sickly as a child and “plain” by all beauty standards. After an uncharacteristic and impulsive choice, she finds herself disowned by her family and thrust into a new one which she actually grows to love.

Elsa discovers “home” at the Martinelli farm as well as a mother’s love. But when the dust storms come, she finds herself with the difficult choice of risking life and health in Texas or taking a chance on a better life in California. Her children are her life, and she must try to do what’s best for them.

This book was wonderful but TOUGH. It is hard for me to comprehend that so many hard-working Americans, on American soil, had no choice but to live in such a way as they did in the “muddy ditch camps” like the one in this story. I also found myself VERY angry at the way the “Okies” (even if you were from Texas, Kansas, etc.) were treated, including receiving unfair wages.

The mother/child dynamic was another reason I enjoyed this book. Elsa was willing to do anything for her children and their survival. Her whole life, she desperately wanted to be brave but always considered herself weak and afraid. And as the novel progresses, she certainly proves herself wrong.

I cannot recommend this book enough. If you like historical fiction, you MUST read this! My hunch is that you will become a Kristin Hannah fan yourself! If so, check out some of her other titles mentioned above. All four of these are available as eBooks or audiobooks through the Libby app at the Ash Flat Library, Ash Flat, Arkansas.

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