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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When Kristin Hannah witnessed the impact of The Nightingale—her bestseller about two sisters resisting tyranny in Nazi-occupied France—she realized she wanted to write a work of historical fiction that was deeply American. The result is this sweeping story about a family’s trials and tribulations during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years. Even before she gets pregnant by a man who doesn’t truly love her, Elsa Martinelli has a harsh, sad life. But once married, Elsa finds comfort with her in-laws: Italian immigrants and Texas wheat farmers who share with her their loyalty to family and the land. But when life on the farm becomes unbearable, Elsa and her two children head to California in search of a better future. Hannah puts her heroine through the wringer, but in the process she maps Elsa’s journey to find her confidence and voice. The Four Winds is an immersive read full of cinematic historical detail, wrenching drama, and moving portrayals of friendship and love. It reminds us, says Hannah, that “so many of the things we’re going through now are things that we have gone through before. It’s always the struggle between the haves and the have-nots in the world… The important thing is to remember kindness and the concept of justice.”
Hannah (The Great Alone) brings Dust Bowl migration to life in this riveting story of love, courage, and sacrifice. In 1934 Texas, after four years of drought, the Martinelli farm is no longer thriving, but Elsa is attached to the land and her in-laws, and she works tirelessly and cares for her children, 12-year-old Loreda and seven-year-old Anthony. Her husband, Rafe, has become distant and something of a hard drinker, and after he abandons them, Elsa reluctantly leaves with her children for California with the promise of steady work. Her dreams of a better future are interrupted by the discrimination they face in the unwelcoming town of Welty, where they are forced to live in a migrant camp and work for extremely low wages picking cotton. When Elsa's meager wages are further reduced and she has the opportunity to join striking workers, she must decide whether to face the dangers of standing up for herself and her fellow workers. Hannah combines gritty realism with emotionally rich characters and lyrical prose that rings brightly and true from the first line ("Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love"). In Elsa, a woman who fiercely defends her principles and those she loves, Hannah brilliantly revives the ghost of Tom Joad.
Good, but a little expected
The book was good, but not as good as The Nightingale. I felt that the writing was a little formulaic and some of the dialogue didn’t feel sincere. It had heartbreaking moments, but I didn’t feel as much anguish with this book compared to Hannah’s other books.
Heart-breaking yet inspiring
This is a true American tale of resilience through terrible times. As always, this author does not disappoint.
Amazing plain and simple
As a reader who normally prefers non-fiction, The Four Winds captured me completely. A page turner and emotional roller coaster. The development of the characters is remarkable. You can see them, you can feel what they feel, you can empathize. Tragedy and triumph through tragedy ... it’s a concept I was not prepared for. Excellent read.