I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In The Four Winds, Elsa Martinelli lives on a farm in Texas with her children and her husband’s parents. But as the Great Depression’s effects set in, as well as the devastating ecological disaster that is the Dust Bowl, Elsa has to make a nearly impossible choice—how can she best take care of her family? Can she leave the only home they have ever known and face the different perils of moving to the West Coast?
I’ve never read a book by Kristin Hannah, though I’ve heard lots of good things. And since I’m trying to not only read fantasy and young adult, this was something I was eager to pick up.
This is quite an engrossing story, though I admit it took me a few chapters to get into it. Elsa is a wonderful protagonist, as is her daughter Loreda, who serves as a second perspective in the narrative. Both have different views of the world, and as Loreda grows up, the two of them start to clash. But their relationship really is the core of this story, as their bond both drives them apart and back together in turns as their family tries to survive. I quite liked the character development, too, especially in Elsa’s case. The other characters like Anthony and Jack were also well-written.
I didn’t expect to read this so quickly, but Hannah’s writing style—while fairly simple and sparse, not particularly elevated—makes for an easy read, and suits the story. The topics presented are difficult, but it was, for me, still easy to tear through the pages. I really liked the examination of the way people can become trapped in a spiral of debt and poverty, through no fault of their own. This book is such a sympathetic, intelligent portrayal of what it is like to be destitute, unemployed, and homeless. You can tell that Hannah did extensive research on what it was like to live in Texas during the Dust Bowl, and what life as a migrant at the time was like. The dust storms scenes were especially memorable.
I particularly enjoyed the aspects of the book that dealt with workers’ rights and how poverty can be worsened by kind-seeming big business owners. It’s a familiar story even now, but I loved watching especially Loreda learn how to fight and protest.
However, as engaging as the plot was, I have to say I found the ending not entirely to my taste. Without going into spoilers, I was a little unsatisfied with the way one character arc ended, and I felt that the plot itself wrapped up a bit too quickly.
In the end, though, The Four Winds is a great book, with excellent characters, a compelling story, and some fantastic themes about family, bravery, and helping those in need.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
The Four Winds will be published on February 2nd, 2021!