Q: who are your fave historical fiction writers?
The Four Winds begins in 1921 when 25 year old spinster Elsa Wolcott, who’s denied love & acceptance by her upperclass family & feeling stifled in their home & her life, sleeps with Rafe Martinelli, an 18 year old Italian-American man.
Pregnant & summarily denounced by her family, Elsa is sent to marry & live with Rafe & his parents. Reflecting on the fact that she is not loved, still, Elsa resolves to give her baby the family & home she never had.
The book picks back up in 1934 where we learn the effects on Elsa of living in that kind of marriage & trying to keep a home & farm going. Then the dust storms & Great Depression get worse & that’s where the story really takes off.
The Four Winds makes it clear from the Prologue that it’s a story about women, & that’s what we get as Elsa tries to protect her family in TX & across the country in CA. Elsa’s story also becomes a migrant camp worker’s story. The parallels between then & now—when the rich get richer off the work & hardships of those who do the work, when politicians & police work to support the system that keeps rich white people rich—are strong.
Kristin Hannah is a masterful writer & my emotions were definitely engaged—but while Elsa & her arc are inspiring, her story also feels overtly representative in some ways, symbolic. I felt some distance from her. That feeling is underscored for me by the ending, which is well-written but which I didn’t like on a couple of different levels.
This isn’t my favorite of Hannah’s books, & I do have some quibbles, but it’s another stunning offering. I’m grateful that we have this exploration of the power & strength of women & mother-daughter relationships during one of the US’s most tumultuous moments. A story that gives hope & assurance of some kind in the good people are capable of even as it points out some of the worst acts of humanity.
4⭐️. The Four Winds is out on 02/02/21. Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
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