I received this book as my chosen Book of the Month in February, and I’ve got to say, I have mixed feelings about it. This is the second book I’ve read by Hannah, the first being the Nightingale, which I didn’t think was great. So I didn’t have high hopes for this one.
Here is its summary:
“Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.
“In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. 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.
“From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras—the Great Depression.“
Rating: The Four Winds – 3.5 to 4 Stars
Overall, I’m giving this book 3.5 to 4 stars because it was definitely a depressing and bleak book. About 450 pages in length, it dragged on most of the time, and I really had to motivate myself to continue reading. Hannah could have cut 200 pages of the book to get her point across, and it probably would have improved my rating. This book is about The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and yes, saying those were bad times is an understatement. But the bleakness of the book overshadowed what little remained.
The main character, Elsa, is described as frail, ugly, and meek. Her family hates her for some reason even though she is the firstborn of three daughters. Just reading about the horrible abuse she endures from her parents was enough to make me not want to continue reading. How Hannah describes Elsa made me think she wasn’t much of a main character, but maybe that was the point. It takes nearly 50 pages for Hannah to actually introduce somewhat of a plot, and even then, it didn’t pique my interest. Elsa becomes stuck in a loveless marriage to a lazy man who dreams of getting out of dodge. They have two children together and live on a farm with his parents. Fast forward a decade or so later, and Elsa’s daughter, Loreda is a preteen who can’t stand her mother. Most of the chapters switch back and forth between Elsa and Loreda’s point of view, and frankly, I didn’t really care to read Loreda’s thoughts. She idolizes her father and hates her mother, I guess because she can see how her dad resents Elsa. This plot point lasts for about 150 pages until Elsa’s dead-beat husband leaves them in the middle of the night.
I won’t get into too much detail after that, but I will say the second half of the book is more interesting than the first, although it might be even more depressing. So why didn’t I give this book a lower rating? Honestly, I think the last quarter of the book saved it. There actually was conflict other than the general hardship of poverty. Also a new character named Jack is introduced around the last third of the book, and his interactions with Elsa add some interest.
You probably will not like this book if you can’t stand reading about poverty, the death of humans and animals, or racism. If you are expecting Elsa to have some sort of whirlwind romance, you aren’t going to find it here. But if you like books with somewhat happy endings, you might enjoy this book. I was not surprised with how the book ended, although I thought it was a little corny. Other than that, I was glad there was some sense of hope at the end. Overall, I think this book is worth reading, as it gives a different perspective to the Great Depression. I had no idea how much racism people who migrated west had to endure during that time, nor did I know much about the Dust Bowl.
If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it? I’d love to hear from you! You can visit my blog at thetravelingbookworm.blog. Until then, see you next time.