Once in awhile I read a book that is so timely, we might as well be living the story in real time. While Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds happens during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and some of the worst years of the Great Depression, many of the themes scattered throughout were a too stark reminder that how America treats its poor/unfortunate has never really changed.
From the very beginning Elsa is kept in her home, forbidden from going out to preserve her health after a fever and heart scare she had when she was 14 years old. In her twenties now, Elsa makes a choice to rebel against her very strict and religious parents and sneaks out. She meets a young Italian man, who romances her into having sex with him in the bed of his truck (very country song). After meeting up with him in the middle of the night a few times, she becomes pregnant and her parents drive her to the homestead of the boy and foist her on them, cutting her off for good.
She has no choice but to marry this man, have his children (she ends up with two), learn to cook, clean, and farm. They have several years of prosperity until the dust storms start. The crops die. Towns empty out and people head west to California for a better life. Elsa’s husband runs away in the middle of the night when he can’t take it anymore, and Elsa tries to make it work until she too needs to take her kids and try her luck on the promises of a better life out west when the constant inhalation of dust threatens her son’s life. I will leave what happens next for you to discover. If you haven’t read or seen much of this period in our nation’s history, this book is essential to not only understanding what we’ve done, but also for understanding what is happening right now.
I could not put this book down. The forward motion of disaster after disaster happening to the characters made me hold my breath and read as fast as I could to see if everything would be okay. Being just as frustrated with how the government tried to “help” then as they did during the pandemic was very discouraging – no one has learned anything from the past. Honestly I’m starting to think that we’re doomed to repeat history whether we study it or not. You cannot miss this one, go get it and let me know what you think!
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