An engaging tale of hardship, loss, and love that draws parallels with modern life.
US-based Kristin Hannah is a lawyer-turned-writer. She has written 24 books, including Wild, The Great Alone, The Winter
The Four Winds is a sweeping tale of hardship set in the 1930s, in Texas and then California. These were difficult times. Depression, drought, coming out of one war and heading for another one. Life on the land was not easy and millions of farmers found themselves without an income as their crops withered and died and the winds tore the topsoil from the land. People travelled to California with the promise of a better life with food and available jobs. There, they found themselves not battling with drought, but with big business, people with money, and prejudice.
This is the story of Elsa, born into a wealthy family, but unloved. She finally finds her place with a family and a home on a farm on the Great Plains. Unfortunately, prolonged drought changes things forever and she discovers she will do anything to protect those who are important to her.
It is the story of a mother’s love for her children, her adopted family, the land and the women around her. It is the story of survival in a time when many didn’t. Hannah has created a central character who is easy to relate to, even though we may not have lived a life as hard as hers. We feel Elsa’s pain and grief as she mourns loss, struggles to feed her family, and has to make hard decisions.
The Four Winds begins well, but then slows down as we become part of her day-to-day life on the land. The almost monotony of this part of the book mirrors Elsa’s life. Thankfully, the pace picks up when Elsa leaves Texas for the promise of a life in California where she desperately looks for work to help keep her family alive. There, she discovers how hard life can really be, and how love and friendship can overcome almost anything.
Kristin Hannah has woven a narrative about a time many of us never experienced and hopefully never will. It is moving and powerful. Her characters are believable and well rounded. The pictures she paints with her words are easily seen in the reader’s mind. Kristin Hannah has created a story of a time when life was more than hard. Thousands died from malnutrition, dysentery, and dust in their lungs (dust pneumonia). Nobody knew where and when their next meal would come from. In the 1930s, approximately 3.5 million people moved out of the dust bowl of America. In just over a year, 86,000 people migrated to California.
In her Author’s Note at the end, Hannah tells us this tale was written in May 2020 when the world we live in today was battling with a different disaster. There are parallels to be made and lessons to be learned. The Four Winds focusses on the human spirit and the will to survive against all odds. We can all learn something from history.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Pan Macmillan
Released: 21 February 2021