The Four Winds – Book Review

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.

 US-based Kristin Hannah is a lawyer-turned-writer. She has written 24 books, including WildThe Great AloneThe Winter Garden and The Nightingale which has sold over 2 million copies and is being made into a film.

These were difficult times. Depression, drought, coming out of one war and heading for another one. Life on the land was not easy and millions of farmers found themselves without an income as their crops withered and died and the winds tore the topsoil from the land. People travelled to California with the promise of a better life with food and available jobs. There, they found themselves not battling with drought, but with big business, people with money, and prejudice.

This is the story of Elsa, born into a wealthy family, but unloved. She finally finds her place with a family and a home on a farm on the Great Plains. Unfortunately, prolonged drought changes things forever and she discovers she will do anything to protect those who are important to her. 

It is the story of a mother’s love for her children, her adopted family, the land and the women around her. It is the story of survival in a time when many didn’t. Hannah has created a central character who is easy to relate to, even though we may not have lived a life as hard as hers. We feel Elsa’s pain and grief as she mourns loss, struggles to feed her family, and has to make hard decisions.

Elsa is resilient, and readers will be drawn to her devotion to her children and her tireless efforts to keep her family well, efforts that bring her to pack them up and head west. On the journey she has to contend not just with the hardships of picking cotton for pitiful wages, but with the weaker wills of the men around her, who abandon family or run ruthless corporate farms that exploit their employees.

Along the way, Elsa develops a greater consciousness of the plight of laborers in Depression-era America, joining them in protests against the larger political and economic engines that exploit people and land alike, leading to the Dust Bowl in the first place.