If there is any author who knows how to both shatter and mend my heart, its Kristin Hannah. While I have not read her entire collection of works, I have read both the Great Alone and the Nightingale. I loved them both so I had pretty high expectations for her latest novel The Four Winds. My expectations were certainly surpassed with this 1930s Dust Bowl era family saga.
Synopsis: In 1934 Texas, millions of people are out of work following the Crash of 1929 and dust storms are ravaging the Great Plains. Farmers are just trying to keep their farms alive so they can keep
their land. Elsa Martinelli - like so many others - is in one of those farming families. She has to make a choice for both her and her children...go to California or risk dying on her family's land amid the layers of dust. A story of family, courage, triumph and defeat...The Four Winds is not only a story of the American Dream. But, it is also a story of a brave woman who would do whatever it cost to save her family.
My Thoughts: Hannah has done it again. She truly is a master of writing the struggles of human existence while also bringing together detailed family stories that always leave you clutching your heart at the end. Hannah chose a unique setting that is not discussed nearly as much in novels, the Dust Bowl era. As a grade school student, I had to write a paper on the Dust Bowl, and ever since then, I always pick up novels set in that time. There are only a few so when I heard this book was set during the Dust Bowl...I fell out of my seat in excitement.
The Dust Bowl was a period of devastating dust storms that wrecked havoc on the Great Plains (from Texas to Nebraska) during the 1930s. It was caused by farmers who over-tilled the topsoil and led to extreme land erosion. Coupled with a drought and extreme heat, the Great Plains became a hot bed for dust storms. On April 14, 1935, the largest dust storm on record ravaged the Great Plains carrying 300,000 tons of topsoil throughout the air as far as the East Coast. Now dubbed Black Sunday, this storm was a monster that devastated the land and caused many families to flee the Great Plains for California for both health reasons and their overall livelihood.
As I did with The Great Alone and The Nightingale...I fell in love with the two main characters: Elsa and her daughter, Loreda. Elsa is reserved, hardworking and eternally loving as any mother should be, but she also has a deep line of courage that takes her on a huge journey throughout the novel. Loreda is a dreamer. She is both spunky, determined and a force for what she believes is right. They are both two strong women who have survived great suffering in order to preserve their family's legacy on the Great Plains.
The ending of this book I'll admit it...I cried. It truly RIPPED my heart out, but Hannah mended it in the best way possible. I felt every emotion and character's personality so deeply. A daughter's frustration and freedom. A son's innocence. A mother's lion heart. A grandmother's soul. A grandfather's work ethic and dream. I could not have loved this book more, and I cannot wait to see what Kristin Hannah does next. For now, I must dive into the backlist!