The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah

 Release Date - February 2, 2021

What a timely book to have hitting the market! I've loved Kristin Hannah over the years as her novels always have characters I want to get to know. I get drawn into the town or neighborhood and want to be a part of that setting. The Four Winds does that, only I will say this time I preferred being the outsider looking in.

It's 1921. Elsa Wolcott is part of a prominent family, but she's not as pretty as others feel she should be. For that reason, she's on her way to being a spinster with no hopes of finding a husband. She longs to be more. She wants to explore the world, go to college, and reinvent what her parents believe is her future.

When she meets a handsome boy from Italian immigrants, one moment changes her path in ways she never would have imagined. Her reputation is in tatters. Her parents want nothing to do with her, and she's forced to marry a man she barely knows. She's taken in by Rafe's family and finds herself finally appreciated for all she has to offer.

Just over 10 years later, Texas and several other states are in the deadly grip of the Dust Bowl. Farm land has dried up and dust storms torment those who do not flee to the promise California holds. Elsa's faced with the choice to pack up her children and head to California to start anew or stay and fight for the farm that's so dear to her heart. 

The Four Winds broke my heart. When the pandemic began, Vermont remained a leader in keeping the numbers down. Mask mandates, a move to online school, and orders for workers not considered essential to stay home became the norm. As numbers remained low, people from across the nation started flocking to the state.

That's where I found The Four Winds to be a little too real. I have head so many townspeople, neighbors, and others within the state make horrible comments to out-of-staters posting questions in Reddit or on Facebook asking about moving to Vermont. There's a clear "we don't want you here" message posted and repeated by many people. People post about not wanting jobs lost to out-of-staters or out-of-staters bringing in the virus from other areas. "Flatlanders" has become the modern version of "Okies." People have learned nothing from the past.

I hated history class in school, so I've learned plenty over the years. The Dust Bowl was a new lesson to me. I know there's been hardship, but I delved into some of the stories from that time and was saddened at how migrants were treated. 

As you get to know the people Elsa meets after her husband moves on seeking a better life, it's hard not to feel for them. Elsa is a brave, tough woman, but she still had her weaknesses. The blend of courage and doubt came through clearly, and you can't fault her for it. You can imagine how hard the decisions she's forced to make would be. I can't imagine being in her shoes, and honestly I'm glad I'm not in them.

This book is a gripping read, but it's not always easy. It's my first 5-star read this year, and while I can't agree with characters' decisions at every moment, I certainly couldn't argue with their viewpoints. If this becomes a movie, which is my hope, I'll be the first in line to see it.


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