The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Kristin Hannah
Published: February 2021
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Pages: 464 [hardback]
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing
Ooooph. This book is hard-hitting and glorious. As with anything that Hannah writes, the story is profoundly inspirational, well researched and bursting with things you didn’t know you wanted to know. I found this hard to read sometimes when the going is tough in the book, but the story is rewarding and a true testament to the human spirit.
The Four Winds
This is a story of a family struggling to get by in the Great Depression in the USA. It spans a number of years and mainly follows the mother, Elsa. She grew up as the unwanted and unspoken about child of her family after suffering poor health for a short period. Although there is no sign of her ill health continuing into her adolescence, her family still treats her as a delicate flower who cannot get too excited.
She is repeatedly told she is ugly and has no prospects in life. And then she meets Raffe. And everything changes. The book takes a turn and digs into the story from this point onwards. Finding herself pregnant, Elsa begins a life with Raffe and his family on a farm. Some years later, we follow their story as the land turns against them and the Depression takes away everything they have.
Sad but Fantastic
I confess to finding this somewhat difficult to read because it is so emotional. It’s a beautiful story and Elsa has such a hard time of it. It felt overwhelming the challenges that life was throwing her way sometimes and I had to be in the right frame of mind to tackle the hard-hitting themes of the book.
But the way Hannah writes her characters (in all of her books) is just so captivating. I love how real and relatable the characters are, in unexpected ways. Elsa’s timidity and motherly compassion are continually at war with each other and it’s amazing to read about a character who is navigating such a mix of emotions within her.
The added elements of walking away from people and family who are no good for you, and being welcomed and accepted into a family who sees the value in you was beautiful. Then there’s the kids and the way Elsa struggles to cope with Loreda’s moodiness and how shut off her daughter becomes from her. Everything about this story is gripping.
Why I Loved It
I’ve actually not read a book set in the Depression backdrop like this before. I found it really eye-opening to have such emotion injected into a historical event I know quite well, and to gain a new perspective of both the tenacity of people to stick together and get through hard times, and the rife prejudice that takes over those who close their hearts to those in need.
The decision to leave or stay is a constant tension throughout the story as you, as the reader, are wondering why Elsa doesn’t save herself for a better life, but also how could she possibly leave behind a place and people who mean so much to her. The further into the story you get, the harder it is to put down because you just want to know things are going to be okay.
My favourite parts in the book were those in the shanty town, and I won’t go into too much detail to avoid any spoilers here. But the human spirit of kindness that Hannah explores and fans the flames of in this segment of the book were joyous and uplifting to read. It’s such a good story to show what kindness can do for others and why it’s always worth helping in anyway you can, whenever you can. Not to mention the spectacular self-growth that Loreda’s character goes through, I really enjoyed that element of this book.
Another brilliant story from Kristin Hannah that held my attention and took me through all of the emotions. If you’re looking for a good and gripping read, and think you’re down to tackle the heavy stuff, I can’t recommend enough that you pick up this book and experience its all-consuming atmosphere.
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