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Book review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Courage is the fear you ignore.

The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life The Great Depression and the people who lived through it — the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battles between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, 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.

It’s been awhile since I’ve found a book that will keep me reading long into the night. It’s also been a long time since a book has made me cry. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah did both. I read the first half in one sitting stopping at about 2am, because I really did have to try and sleep. At that point, I’d cried twice. I left it for a week so I could finish it at the second sitting and be emotionally prepared for the rest of the story.

Such a great read!

The Four Winds is about the struggles of one woman, Elsa Martinelli. Elsa breaks free from her privileged, yet loveless and restrictive upbringing, finding purpose and strength when she leaves them behind for a new family and life, She then must fight to keep that family together through severe drought and the Great Depression.

Hannah’s characters deal with feast and famine in a realistic, evocative manner drawing the reader in to their lives in a way not easy to forget. Her style reminds me, a little, of Steinbeck’s East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath, where internal struggles move the story along with as much force as the external. Bringing the history of America during the 1930s, the migration of farmers from the drought stricken interior states to the “golden land” of California through the viewpoint of a single mother enabled readers to experience this period from different angles. The struggles of the characters are the real struggles of families trying to survive not only environmental hardship, but social and economical as well.

Finding a single theme in any novel isn’t easy. There’s usually a tapestry of themes woven together together to create a single flowing story. In The Four Winds though, courage is the foundation upon which all else rests. Courage to be more, do more, achieve more with your life than you may initially believe is possible.

I highly recommend this one.

The four winds have blown us here, people from all across the country. To the very edge of this great land, and now, at last, we make our stand, fight for what we know to be right. We fight for our American dream, that it will be possible again.


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