The Four WindsThe Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A familial tale of American history from the early 1920s to 1940. The Four Winds touches briefly on prohibition’s repeal but is primarily the journey of Elsa Martinelli and her two children through The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

Plot. The story begins in the panhandle of Texas. Elsa, as tall as a man and whippet-thin, rejected by her parents, seeks self-worth in the arms of Rafe Martinelli – she gets pregnant and moves onto the Martinelli farm. Initially spurned for ruining the life of their son, the Martinellis eventually take Elsa as their own. She settles into farm life and a land she learns to love. The Dust Bowl tragedy drives Elsa to seek her children’s salvation in the “land of milk and honey” – California. Sadly, Elsa becomes one more of thousands – migrant families, starving and desperate.

Liked. The history of the Dust Bowl and migrant families. Hard-working Americans, driven to desperate measures to survive. You’ll learn interesting tidbits – like the earth actually creating large fissures due to dryness, not earthquakes – and how the “company store” is legal slavery. You’ll learn that the dust bowl migrants weren’t all farmers. They were also lawyers, shopkeepers, teachers, Americans.

Not so hot. Elsa’s daughter blames her for everything, an obnoxious and ignorant teenager who constantly breaks Elsa’s heart. This was a bit over-the-top for me. Kids aren’t that stupid. Plenty of angst and pain in the story without the drumbeat of this kid’s idiocy.

Written by Kristin Hannah, narrated by Julia Whelan, fifteen hours of listening in unabridged audiobook format, released in February 2021 by Macmillan Audio.

Recommended. The story and characters are fictional – the events are American history everyone should know.


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