The Four Winds: A Novel
by Kristin Hannah
Paperback- $14.62

"The Bestselling Hardcover Novel of the Year."--Publishers Weekly

From the number-one bestselling author of The Nightingale and The ...

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  "A wonderful addition to historic fiction." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 02/06/21

Kristin Hannah has written a remarkable novel covering the decade and a half between 1921 and 1936. These years were a time of economic, climate, and agricultural turmoil leading to tragedy in America. The war years had finally come to an end, the Roaring Twenties and the Charleston dance were birthed, Prohibition had begun; with it came the rise of the speakeasy, a new kind of clandestine night life, and an increase in crime. It was a time when the rich and the poor were separated by a number of superficial cultural beliefs concerning class, education, color, religion, morality and work ethic. Elitism was alive and well, along with deeply held prejudices, that seemed to thrive more in some areas of the country than others. The Great Depression was gestating and the Great Plains began to die of thirst. Troubling times were on the horizon.
Elsinore lived in a home without love. Her sisters were married, but she was confined to the home. at age 25, considered a spinster since she was unmarried, and not marriageable, because she had contracted Rheumatic Fever when she was 14 and was told she would be ill for the rest of her life. She was told she had a weakened heart. She was repeatedly told that she was unattractive and would never marry. Her confidence waned, and she was often treated like a stick of furniture. She dressed unattractively and had hair down to her waist which she braided. She was quiet and obedient; she read books voraciously, and very much wanted to go to college. Her father forbade it. Education was not necessary for a female. The books, however, inspired her to break free from her shuttered life.
One night, she left the house defying her parents; wearing a red dress she made for herself, looking a bit like a harlot in the eyes of those who were in the upper class, she explored a world she never had before. That night, she met Rafe Martinelli, a young man, a farm boy, about a half dozen years her junior. Both of them were lonely, and they fell into a secret relationship. Suddenly, Elsa was pregnant and totally unprepared for it. No one had ever explained the workings of the body to her. Disowned and deposited on his doorstep, her life went into a completely different direction, as did his. He was supposed to leave for college and was engaged to be married to another, now he was tied to the farm. However, they both tried to do the right thing and make the marriage work. His family eventually embraced her more fully and more lovingly than those in the cold household where she was raised.
For a while, the Martinelli farm did well. Elsa felt like she had a family that cared about her and she loved her life. She had two children to whom she was totally devoted. Then came the drought, beginning in 1931 and continuing for years. It completely devastated the Great Plains and Texas where they lived. Crops died, farmers lost their homes and land. The Martinelli’s just barely hung on. Rafe began to drink. He hated his life and was filled with despair. Tumbleweeds bounced across the land and dust storms destroyed the farms. Houses fell into disrepair or were foreclosed. Families dispersed, husbands abandoned wives, and Rafe was one of those husbands. One day, he was simply gone, leaving everyone behind. At 12 years old, Loreda mourned the loss her father and blamed her mother, but she would come to realize that he had left them all, not just her. He had left his parents, his wife and his children. He had run from his responsibility.
When Elsa’s son Anthony developed pneumonia from the dust storms, in order to save his life and help him recover, she left the farm with her children and headed west to California. Once there, she learned what true despair was, what terrible hatred and prejudice was present in the towns she entered. Okies were not welcome. Women alone were not welcome. They were looked down upon and mistreated. They were starving, they were good people who had fallen on hard times, but they were treated like criminals, like animals carrying disease.
When Loreda became fed up and ran away, she met a man named Jack. He was a Communist who organized unions all over the country. He wanted to help him them. The story takes a tragic turn because of this, but as it journeys to its end, Elsa learns what real love is, Loreda learns how wonderful a mother and daughter relationship can be, and gains a purpose in life, and all the Martinellis learn about true love, at last.
Communism was portrayed positively, but it wasn’t the end result of their efforts or their goals, and it represented the demand for equal rights and decent pay more than a political position of government control. They hoped and searched for mutual respect. There were some scenes that felt contrived with too much of a romantic theme, but it was the romance that opened up Elsa’s mind and spirit. Sometimes disaster following disaster seemed to stifle the ability to suspend disbelief, because it was a stretch to believe that all of the tragedies could be experienced within the microcosm of this one family. The Progressive agenda was front and center as climate, immigration and migration were major themes. Overall, the theme was the disgraceful treatment of migrants, immigrants and those down at heel, like the “Okies”, who were refused even simple human kindness by most people who thought they were “more decent”.
The author uses the title to explain that “the four winds”, from the four corners of the world, had blown Elsa and those like her from their farms and their homes, to California and other places, to lives sometimes more hardscrabble. Gleaned from the diaries of women that lived through the dust bowl and migration westward, the author has painted a vivid picture of what their lives must have been like during those tumultuous times, and she highlights their bravery and strength. In her comment, the author compares the worst economic time in America, during the three decades of this novel, to the America now suffering from the pandemic and the ensuing economic decline in America. However, we were a country that I believe had been made great again, and only went into decline because of circumstances beyond the President’s control. It is only thanks to Trump that we were able to have a vaccine for the China Virus, and we are now hopeful that we will get the sickness and death behind us, once again restoring America to greatness.
To the author’s credit, she did not politicize this book, although she did speak of liberal issues and showed her hand in agreement with them. Hannah wanted to write a book that would emphasize the plight of women and shine a light on those with the courage and fortitude to face disaster and deprivation with grace, to illuminate the bravery of these women who bore the hardships of the day-to-day life, protecting their family, feeding them and caring for them as they suffered.
Some parts of the story seem incomplete. What happened to Rafe? How did the children fare in later life considering all they had suffered? How did the Dust Bowl end? I would have liked a fuller description of what did FDR did to help the farmers restore the Plains to productivity. I would have liked Jack, the Communist, to be more fully developed, and I would have liked the emphasis to be not on Communism, but on shared respect for people everywhere. However, this book opened my eyes to a period of time I knew little about and inspired me to investigate it further. What more can anyone want from a book than such inspiration?

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/04/21

It is a well written book. A disappointing ending. Many have told me the book is depressing, which I can see but I saw strength , resilience, love, and yes sadness.

  "" by LoriLichstrahl (see profile) 04/06/21

  "" by KM (see profile) 04/06/21

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/09/21

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/10/21

I was shocked at how little I knew about this time period in America.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/10/21

It started out slow for me, so minus one star, but ended very strong.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/10/21

I felt beaten down.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/10/21

4.5 really enjoyed it!

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/10/21

I am glad I read it, but I did not enjoy it.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/10/21

Well written story about a difficult time in history.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/10/21

This was a better book than Grapes of Wrath. I learned more about the Great Depression era than I ever knew and was surprised by the same bigotry against immigrants back then as we see now.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/17/21

I’m a week late and more than a few dollars short but I just finished this book (on an airplane, of course, sobbing into my face mask). Loved it. Beautifully written and will stay with me for a good while.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/19/21

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  "Not Happy" by Tbaker123 (see profile) 04/27/21

I like Kristin Hannah and read most of her books. I am very disappointed in this book, though. There were many similarities to a book I had previously read also. Most disappointing was the doom and gloom from the first pages that continued to the last page. No hope.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/28/21

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/11/21

Excellent read and informative of dust bowl and depression of the 20’s and 30’s

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/14/21

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/18/21

This is one of the best novels I have read. The main character’s struggles never seemed to end yet she never gave up motivated by her love for her children. Such an interesting time period too - the Depression, Dust Bowl , migration

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/22/21

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/07/21

Another great historical fiction by Hannah. She once again focused on women characters. At first I thought it was very depressing about her childhood and then her marriage but just wait! Elsa strength, determination to give her kids a better life will move you. It is a moving story about the Great Depression/dust bowls and everything they had to endure.

  "Epic Novel on The Dust Bowl Era" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/08/21

This book was truly amazing! Kristin Hannah is an astonishing writer who tells a story of a historical time period through a woman's perspective. Elsa, the main character learns to be brave, have hope, and will do anything for her children. She eventually finds her voice and inner strength to help others in her situation. It truly touched by heart and enlightened me about how people endured and survived through The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl Era. That time period and generation of people were such hard workers, brave, and resilient. They endured such incredible hardships in survival of their land and family. Hope, love, friendship, and motherhood are several themes in this epic novel of which you will not want to put down.

  "" by charlenep.cp (see profile) 06/10/21

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  "The Four Winds" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/18/21

An evocative description of life in the Dust Bowl and the trek to California. The book inspired discussion of many different topics at our book club.

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  "Perseverance tested" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/07/21

The author sets this book in the Dust Bowl time period and the trials and tribulations this family endure. Also, the trek to California for a better life and how that was an illusion for a mother and her family.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/29/21

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  "Loved It" by TammyCar (see profile) 09/01/21

Loved this book. There are many things in this book that will make for a great book discussion.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 09/04/21

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  "The Four Winds won't blow you over" by lizblair (see profile) 09/29/21

Hannah's good writing is the only thing going for this book. Boring, gloomy, but yes informative, still did not make me like this story. Skip it

  "The Four Winds" by msahm (see profile) 10/06/21

This took place during the dust bowl and I really didn't know a lot about this time period so I learned a lot.I also liked the characters and wanted them to succeed!

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 10/12/21

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 10/13/21

I couldn’t put this book down. What a beautiful story of a mother and the sacrifices you make for your children! Elsa is an inspiring character! I’m so glad she discovered her strength and found her voice!

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  "The Four Winds" by dakelle (see profile) 10/28/21

Similar subject to the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and that story will always stay with me so I could not read this one along a similar theme.

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/03/21

I enjoyed this book. I listened to it on audible which made the characters come alive. Julia Whelan, the narrator, did an excellent job with accents and portraying each character’s feelings. I know some readers felt that the dust storm chapters were long and unnecessary, and skipped through much of those chapters, but hearing the fear, the stress, the worry for the children, the “hurry up and get inside” tone from Whelan’s narration made those parts add to the desperation, the concern for their lives, and the need for action as far as leaving the farm. If you can listen to the book, you should. There are some parts at the start of the book concerning Elsa’s virginity at 25 and then not being a virgin soon after because of slightly unrealistic decisions made by Elsa but I thought about it that part of the book as I was listening and it became less unrealistic the more I learned who Elsa truly was: how desperate she was for a companion, how desperate she was for affection, how desperate for love she really was. Elsa is an amazing character who grows throughout the book even while remaining at the farm. She was a committed and loyal daughter-in-law who worked just as hard to keep the farm going as any of the Martinelli’s. The other characters including Rose, Tony, and Loreda were fleshed out and it was easy to understand why they were the way they were. Rafe, Elsa’s husband was more of a mystery and I think we are supposed to feel that way. I think we’re supposed to think about the fact that we don’t truly know ever thought, especially dark thoughts, that a person has. The lack of completely fleshing out his character is purposeful and adds one of either two things depending on how his character is interpreted by the reader: you’re either angry at him and hate him for doing what he did because it showed he was selfish and thoughtless, or you’re angry but still have a smidge of understanding because of why and how he got yo where he was when he finally couldn’t take it anymore. I think it’s a combination of both but mostly I’m angry he did what he did. However, the author has to show how things really were during the depression -men left whole families for dreams, out of frustration, out of resentment, out of shame that they couldn’t provide for their families, but mostly out of weakness of character, of person. I think had Rafe been a central character, the reader would have focused too much on his betrayal of his wife and family and possibly missed out on how mature, how determined, and how heroic Elsa’s character is. Rafe is a means to an end for Elsa to take over the role of being the head of her family, the provider, the nurturer, the worrier, and to show her true “grit” in the face of hopelessness, fear, and the extreme worry that came with trying to feed and house your children. She comes out looking exactly as she should: a mother who loved her children more than anything else, a mother who would do anything to provide food and shelter for her children, and a woman who grows and learns a few things about herself that other people (I.e. her family who told her she was unworthy and that she was ugly, and a husband who never told her she was pretty, and was never affectionate with her) didn’t want her to know or feel. She is one of my favorite characters and I would recommend this book to others, but do yourself a favor, and get a feeling fir tree times and characters by listening to this book.

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I loved the evolution of the main character, Elsa, and the role her daughter played in that every lotion of self.

  "" by dchristensen (see profile) 01/13/22

  "" by janetbals (see profile) 01/16/22

Loved it. Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors.

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 02/05/22

I loved the whole book. It reminds me of Grapes of Wrath which is my all time favorite book. The ending of course made me cry. And since I listened to the book I got to listen to the interview with Kristin and Julia Whelan. I enjoyed hearing the back story about how Kristen thought she was writing a different book but was actually writing the daughter’s story. Edited: this book made my top 5 reads of 2021. Highly recommend.

  "The dust bowl" by lpollinger (see profile) 02/05/22

Most of us know, at least vaguely, about the Dust Bowl. Kristin Hannah’s description puts you right into the thick of it. This is a heartbreaking story of love, trust and survival. Mostly is is the story of a mother’s love, and what she will do, for her children.

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 02/18/22

Love this book! As an immigrant it was powerful to learn about that part of history. fascinating! You will not be able to put it down.

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/29/22

Loved it!

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 04/04/22

Depressing, but I couldn’t put it down once Rafe left. Reading it was like picking at an open wound.

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 01/13/23

Grit of Elsa was encouraging. Amazing how many parallels there are to the present day.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 01/22/23

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 02/02/23

I loved this book which portrayed a female lead (often misunderstood and overlooked, but important and lovely nonetheless) set in the dust bowl era. There is gentle focus on the complexities and significance of a mother-daughter relationship, where each find their own voices via personal and collaborative evolution during a severe time. It speaks of the vitality in resilience and bravery during hardship.

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  "" by csammonds (see profile) 03/14/23

Loved it!

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/15/23

  "The Four Winds" by ColleenMcD (see profile) 03/17/23

We loved this book. As all Kristin Hannah's books it was an emotional, yet informative story of a time most of us have heard about, but before our time. Beautiful story!

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/11/24

It was a very good book, and likely a very good depiction of a terrible time in history. However, this type of book feels so draining emotionally that I found myself rushing through it

  "" by ebach (see profile) 04/04/24

Although THE FOUR WINDS is marketed as a novel for adults, for me it's writing style is more young adult, which is not usually to my taste anymore. That is not to say that this is a bad book. It is just more to my 13-year-old taste, especially since many of the chapters are written from a teenager's point of view. THE FOUR WINDS reminds me of a John Jakes novel I read when I was 13.

This novel begins before the Great Depression. Elsa has grown up lonely and unloved. She later marries a younger boy and moves to his parent's farm in Texas.

Skip a few years now to the time of the Depression. Elsa has two children, and her husband has run away. She stays there on the farm with his parents and tries to fight the horrible drought and dust storms. After her son is hospitalized with dust pneumonia, Elsa and her children move to California. But their life there becomes even worse. Out of necessity, Elsa becomes involved with Communists who want to strike against the field owners, who were not paying their workers enough to feed their children or pay rent.

Prepare for a depressing read from beginning to end. Once or twice a good thing happens, such as when a security guard gives Elsa $5.

I wasn't pleased with THE FOUR WINDS, but you may be, so read other reviews.

  "" by JohnLibby4 (see profile) 05/03/24

  "The Four Winds" by [email protected] (see profile) 07/10/24

I enjoyed from the beginning. The human relationships were superbly described, and I learned a great about a subject I didn't realize touched so many people far more than just losing their homes and livelihoods due to no fault of their own.

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