She will discover the best of herself in the worst of times . . .
Texas, 1934. Elsa Martinelli had finally found the life she’d yearned for. A family, a home and a livelihood on a farm on the Great Plains. But when drought threatens all she and her community hold dear, Elsa’s world is shattered to the winds.
Fearful of the future, when Elsa wakes to find her husband has fled, she is forced to make the most agonizing decision of her life. Fight for the land she loves or take her beloved children, Loreda and Ant, west to California in search of a better life. Will it be the land of milk and honey? Or will their experience challenge every ounce of strength they possess?
From the overriding love of a mother for her child, the value of female friendship and the ability to love again – against all odds, Elsa’s incredible journey is a story of survival, hope and what we do for the ones we love.
“Time heals all wounds, people told her, underscoring its essential kindness. She knew in fact that some wounds deepened over time instead of lessened.”
The Four Winds is my first Kristin Hannah novel and it certainly won’t be the last. This book was powerfully transportive, insightful and poignant.
The story follows Elsa Martinelli, and as time goes on, her daughter as well, Loreda. Through both mother and daughter we go back to Texas 1934 and navigate the crisis’s of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression and their consequences.
”Poverty was a soul-crushing thing. A cave that tightened around you, its pinprick of light closing a little more at the end of each desperate, unchanged day.”
Hannah writes an immersive story as I felt transported to 1934 Texas. I saw the farmlands golden and prosperous. Equally I easily imagined the barren landscapes that transpire, and the plight ravaging both the land and the family. I felt the worries and stress over surviving their living circumstances and bare shelves. I easily imagined the migrant camps that held crowds and crowds of desperate souls. I had multiple lumps in my throat. I can only describe Hannah as a phenomenal writer who captured such striking imagery with evocative and easily readable prose.
However, there were scenes that were nearly word for word repetitive a couple of chapters after the first, which felt repetitive, rather than merely emphasising the plight of the Martinellis.
I found Elsa very relatable in her desire to find somewhere to belong, to give love and be loved in return. Elsa loves fiercely and the times force her to come out of her shell in ways she’d never imagine or choose, which was heartbreaking and tragic, but also in some ways marvellous. My chest swelled with such hope and eased with relief when Elsa and her family had respite. My heart ached when they did not.
”A warrior believes in an end she can’t see and fights for it. A warrior never gives up. A warrior fights for those weaker than herself. It sounds like motherhood to me.”
The other Martinelli, Loreda, is in her adolescence so is driven in ways her more weathered mother isn’t. She was a whirlwind storm of emotions throughout; facing the harsh realities of life and enduring horrendous challenges that cost her childhood innocence. I felt she really developed across the book to come full circle.
I had questions by the end that weren’t answered. I understand my questions were perhaps not the main focus of the story, but they still feel unresolved all the same. Moreover I think the ending was predictable. This was disappointing on two fronts: that it was predictable and I also felt it was an unnecessary end when the story was already breathtaking.
Despite my issues I still loved this book. I really, really enjoyed it. My heart desperately wants to rate it 5 stars but my head says 4. I think it’s an incredible exploration of human will, family and American history. By the books end I was choked up and felt it was a privilege to read the Martinelli story, which Hannah makes clear in her author’s note, was her attempt of portraying what many people went through. I am genuinely eternally grateful for this tough yet rewarding read and won’t ever forget it. I’ve already preordered my hardback copy.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of readers take a good look at their lives when reading this. It certainly made me realise and appreciate what I have. And so I’ll end my review with one of the messages The Four Winds leaves us with: ”Hard times don’t last. Love does.”
Thank you kindly to the publishers and Netgalley UK for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Published February 2021
Genre: historical fiction, general fiction, women’s fiction.