Sunday, March 21, 2021

Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (audio)


Title: The Four Winds
Author: Kristin Hannah
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published: February 2021, Macmillan Audio
Length: 15 hours 2 minutes
Source: Publisher


From the number-one best-selling 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.

My thoughts:  There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to love this was just a matter of how much. Yes, I knew it would be a tough subject to read - it is about the Great Depression after all - but what really comes to light here is just how resilient the human spirit is.

This book pulled me in right from the start and kept me completely captivated all the way through. It tells such a deep and personal story while also giving you a better understanding of the history of the time. I knew very little about the Dust Bowl and the Dust Bowl Migration of the 1930s and I don't think I've really read any books set during the Great Depression. But through Elsa's story, we see firsthand the devastation. This of course sent me right to Google, searching for images from this time period.

One thing that this author does well, no matter what she sets her characters up against, is the deep relationships she establishes amongst her characters. And whether that be love, parental, or even friendship, they are also so strong. She also creates characters that while flawed, are strong in their own right, and here we have Elsa, who I know I am not going to be forgetting anytime soon. The writing was so strong that I feel I went through so much of what Elsa went through - her suffering, she joys, her struggles. She is forced over and over again to make decisions I would only hope to never be confronted with...yet, she has no choice as these impact the safety of her family.

This book left such an impression on me. Once again we have characters that are tested day in and day out, and this one is hard. It's a tough story, but it's a story that leaves you with a sense of hope. And, while we are in the midst of our own crisis, it's one that shows us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I cannot recommend this one enough.

Audio thoughts: As soon as I saw that Julia Whelan was narrating this book, I knew I would be listening to it. She is one of my favorite narrators and her narration did not disappoint. She brought this book to life and while I did not want the book to end, I also could not stop listening. She has such a way of capturing the essence of the story and the emotions of the characters. 



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