Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Four Winds

Rate this book
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.

Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781250178602

464 pages, Hardcover

First published February 2, 2021

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Kristin Hannah

136 books198k followers
Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People's Choice award for best fiction in the same year. It was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week. In 2018,

The Great Alone became an instant New York Times #1 bestseller and was named the Best Historical Novel of the Year by Goodreads.

The Four Winds was published in February of 2021 and immediately hit #1 on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Indie bookstore's bestseller lists. Additionally, it was selected as a book club pick by the both Today Show and The Book Of the Month club, which named it the best book of 2021.

The Nightingale is currently in production at Tri Star, with Dakota and Elle Fanning set to star. Tri Star has also optioned The Great Alone and it is in development. Firefly Lane, her beloved novel about two best friends, was the #1 Netflix series around the world, in the week it came out. The popular tv show stars Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke and Season Two is currently set to conclude the series on April 27, 2023.

A former attorney, Kristin lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
272,558 (49%)
4 stars
194,601 (35%)
3 stars
64,716 (11%)
2 stars
14,366 (2%)
1 star
4,297 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 53,059 reviews
Profile Image for Matt.
919 reviews28.3k followers
February 14, 2021
“The wind picked up, ruffled [Elsa’s] dress. She paused in beating the rug, sweat running down her face…and tented a hand over her eyes. Past the outhouse, a murky, urine-yellow haze burnished the sky. Elsa tilted her sun hat back, stared out at the sickly yellow horizon. Dust storm. The newest scourge of the Great Plains. The sky changed color, turned red-brown. Wind picked up, barreled across the farm from the south. A Russian thistle hit her in the face, tore the skin from her cheek. A tumbleweed spiraled past. A board flew off the chicken coop and cracked into the side of the house…The cows mooed angrily and pushed into each other, pointing their bony butts into the dust storm. Static electricity made their tails stand out. A flotilla of birds flew past them, flapping hard, cawing and squawking, outrunning the dust…”
- Kristin Hannah, The Four Winds

This is one of those times I feel like I need to apologize in advance. So I will.

I’m sorry I didn’t like the book everyone else loved. And if you are one of those people who loved this book, I assure you, this is nothing personal.

Before now, I have never read a book by Kristin Hannah. That said, I know her by reputation. She is an extremely prolific author with a vast following. Her super-mega-bestselling novels have been purchased in the millions, along with a like number of tissue boxes. Her books are not simply read, they are cherished; not merely liked, but beloved. When I started The Four Winds, it was with the knowledge that I was certainly not alone in cracking the cover.

Alas, having finished, I find myself in a lonely position, among the apparent few who did not appreciate it.

When I find myself in such a contrary pose, I typically hesitate. I appreciate the possibility that I missed something, or I read something the wrong way, or that I simply didn’t get it. I am also not the type of person who provides contrary literary opinions simply as a way of seeking attention. Books, after all, are an investment in my time, which is valuable to me. I don’t read them with an eye towards later evisceration. Certainly, I don’t feel any special need to deconstruct popular books and successful authors.

But here we are, nonetheless.

Before I go on, I should add that I am going to be discussing a plot point that happens about one-third of the way into the novel. I don’t think it’s a spoiler, as it’s not structured as a surprise, and it is imperative to actually describing the novel. In any event, consider this a warning.

With that out of the way, a brief summary is in order. The Four Winds is the story of Elsa Martinelli, a woman of Job-like dimensions upon whom has fallen a hateful set of parents, a no-good husband, an uber-brat of a daughter, and the Great Depression itself. There are moments when it seems as though Elsa’s creator read a book about the Dust Bowl, wrote down every bad thing that ever happened to anybody, and then forced them all upon this one indomitable woman. Elsa endures this all with fortitude, equanimity, and grace, and the only real problem with Hannah’s presentation is that it felt – to me – entirely false.

To begin, I found the characters extremely simplistic. Hannah paints in bold lines, and just about everyone in this story is a type, whether it’s the Italian-Catholic mother-in-law or the handsome young labor organizer. Take, for instance, Elsa’s mom, who is so pointedly hateful she makes Cinderella’s stepmother appear reasonable. Her dad, somehow, is even worse, because he adds a bit of physical violence to his aggressive unpleasantness. The hinge of Elsa’s life is a man named Rafe, about whom we know only two things: he is Italian, and he is good looking. Nevertheless, Elsa loves him completely and relentlessly. The heart has its reasons, I suppose. And don’t get me started on Loreda, Elsa’s daughter, who apparently joined a New Deal program by which she is paid by the eye roll. Like, I get that’s she supposed to be a teenager. But also, it’s the Great Depression.

While the characters did not work for me, I understand that this is not an objective critique. Many fine tales rely on archetypes. Not every book need be an intense, Dostoevsky-like psychological excavation of the human soul. Still, the types in The Four Winds were, in my opinion, extremely bland.

Furthermore, Hannah employs a tell-not-show form of storytelling. Rather than carefully setting up a scene, letting that scene play out, and then observing the consequences, The Four Winds races pell-mell from one incident to the next. While this creates a blistering pace, it also builds zero tension, drama, or stakes. It is telling that the highpoints occur when Hannah slows down and simply describes the land. Her descriptions of the dust storms, for instance, are quite good.

I will give but one example, lest I belabor the issue. At one point, shortly after Elsa has hit the road for California, she is confronted by a vagrant intent on robbing her. The man actually grips Elsa’s throat, implying lethal danger. Then, Loreda appears with a shotgun, and the man runs off.

All of this – setup, execution, aftermath – occurs in less than two pages. Let me repeat: a life-or-death situation that arises and disappears in – according to my quick count – just 264 words. Then, Hannah caps off her “set piece” with this conclusion: “They would be changed by this, all three of them.”

By my recollection, this incident is never referenced again.

Once more, Hannah’s style is not illegitimate storytelling. Authors ask you to accept things as true all the time. But the The Four Winds goes too far, asking me to take just about everything – from Elsa’s love to Loreda’s badass turn – on faith. For me, I need a reason to believe. I need some demonstrations about the facts underlying the conclusions I am given.

This is especially true with regard to the countless moments when Hannah wanted me reaching for my hankie. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with emotional manipulation in a novel. Indeed, if a writer is not trying to manipulate my emotions – that is, if the writer is not trying to make me feel something – then there is no point reading what they have written. Here, though, being told that something sad has happened is not the same as feeling sad about it.

Perhaps the biggest problem I had with The Four Winds is that once Elsa sets off for California, it follows The Grapes of Wrath almost beat for beat. Long drive across the desert: check. Mean store owners: check. Squatter’s camp full of helpful common folk: check. A flood: check. Unfortunately, while The Grapes of Wrath felt journalistic in its detail, The Four Winds feels like a superficial and too-glossy copycat. Whereas John Steinbeck marinated you in detail and context, Hannah simplifies everything to good versus evil. Just about everyone Elsa meets in California, from a nurse who won’t help a dying woman, to a school that doesn’t want to teach Okies, is a cartoonishly villainous monster. None of these deficits are helped by leadenly expository dialogue that feels like the novelization of a U.S. history textbook for elementary schoolers. Okay, that might be a bit too harsh, but there was never a moment when I found myself thinking: this is definitely what it's like when two human beings converse.

If there is a saving grace in The Four Winds, it is Elsa herself. I give Hannah credit for trying something a bit ambitious, by centering her epic on a wallflower. Elsa’s arc, from shrinking violet to something more, gives this book its spine. There were times, I should add, that I totally believed in Elsa’s journey. The problem is that the world around her, and the people in it, all struck me as curiously lifeless cutouts. Reading this was like walking onto a studio backlot of a western town, where the facades of the buildings give the impression of a tactile reality. Upon closer inspection, though, came the realization that behind each façade, there is very little of substance.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
February 1, 2021
A warrior believes in an end she can’t see and fights for it. A warrior never gives up. A warrior fights for those weaker than herself.
It sounds like motherhood to me.

Kristin Hannah's books seem to get pigeonholed as "women's fiction", whatever that means, but the three books I've read from her - The Nightingale, The Great Alone, and this one - have all been, for me, nothing short of survival stories.

The theme of women surviving impossible times runs through all three of the books I've read by Hannah. She often focuses on cross-generational bonds, between older and younger women who usually have complex relationships with one another. The Nightingale focused on the women left fighting their own war at home in France during the German occupation. The Great Alone follows a mother and daughter into the Alaskan wilderness, as they fight off threats from outside and within their small cabin.

The Four Winds is set during dust bowl era Texas, and focuses on Elsa Martinelli and her daughter as they try to survive the complete destruction of life as they knew it.

You know, before reading this book, I thought I understood what happened during the dust bowl and the Great Depression. I read The Grapes of Wrath some years ago and we skimmed over it in school. But clearly I did not appreciate the horrors that took place, especially in the dust-ravaged lands of Northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. I did not know, or did not remember, that people slept in gas masks or else woke with their eyes crusted shut and their throats caked in dirt. I did not know how many died from dust pneumonia.

In this book, Elsa has carved out a piece of paradise for herself-- a loving family, a land to farm and be proud of, and a mother-in-law whose initial suspicion quickly turns to affection. Then the land turns on them. Everything dies. There's no food to feed themselves, never mind the few animals they need to keep their farm going. And then Elsa's son becomes gravely ill, and she must decide whether to stick it out and hope for an end to this hell, or leave on a perilous journey west to California.

It's just a real great story about a family trying to survive. I loved Elsa immediately, her fire and her weaknesses, and I wanted so badly for her to get her family to safety. The trials never stop, though, and after doing a bit more outside reading on the dust bowl, I can see there was nothing remarkable about Elsa's story, even if, to me, it sounds completely outrageous.

The Four Winds is not a short book, but I ate it up. I was so absorbed in the story that I felt annoyed every time real life disturbed my reading. This book just cemented Kristin Hannah as a must-read author for me.
May 23, 2023
2.49863 stars. I’m sorry. But what wassss this that I just read??? This was legit Kristin Hannah on crack...the most depressing crack everrrr.

Listen- I love me a good cry. I rocked in a corner weeping after finishing The Nightingale for daysss. But this? The Four Winds was literally a master class in taking every bleak and sad and god awful thing that could possibly happen to you, and throwing it all in a book and hoping and praying that it would make you weep. It did not.

Set during The Great Depression in Texas, the story did in fact open my eyes to things I truly didn’t know or understand. I do have to admit that this piece of history was not ever taught to these depths and it was quite enraging and I was flabbergasted at how wretched our country was during this time period. Alas- that is really the only positive thing I have to say about this book.

The main character and mother, Elsa was basically a walking talking Eeyore. Good lord. How many times can someone say “but I’m not pretty”?!? Even well into her 30s and 40s she was yammering about her ugliness. Get a grip woman! Grow up! She was meek, whiny, a pessimist, had zero backbone and was just not someone I could root for. Her son Ant- I’ll give him a pass. He was sweet. The daughter Loreda needed to be blown away in a dust storm. She was legit every mother’s greatest fear when raising a daughter. She was just an awful creature that just needed to always get her way, and when she did...she still complained. Blah. The men in this story. Whatever. One was a nobody disaster mess that was basically given no depth and the other was painted as the bad boy heroine that also was given no depth. The only redeeming characters were the grandparents Tony and Rose.

So back to the bleakness and depressing plot lines...
In one book you have: verbally, emotionally and physically abusive parents, teenage pregnancy, homelessness, abandonment, relationship strife, mother/daughter strife, more emotional abuse, more abandonment, dust storms x 8273882 (why so many? We got the point after the first 75), poverty, hunger, The Great Depression, homelessness again, more poverty, more hunger, more emotional abuse, a giant flood, more homelessness, abuse, more emotional torment, child loss, death, more poverty, more death. This is not an exaggeration. By the end of this book I was just numb and unfazed. Speaking of the end...

The ending was trash. I minused 1.5 stars simply bc of the ending. The super obvious attempt to make the reader cry only made me cringe and dry heave a bit. Super spoiler ahead-
The fact that little miss dormouse Elsa finally decides to speak and be a normal human in the last five pages, only to end up being shot is RIDICULOUS. And not only that- but the hospital scene...I’m still cringing. The woman was shot once, the doctors can do nothing to help her bc the olden time bullet that was used apparently shattered and minced her insides and her heart is suddenly now not working (but it had no prob working when she was picking cotton for 12 hours a day and malnourished), but alas Elsa wakes up from her death bed to utter her goodbyes. It was like the movie Stepmom...but not sad. And then she croaks. And then in the epilogue the shitty daughter finally now loves her mom and talks about how brave she always was?!? Ummm what? Sister- all you did the entire book was tell your mother that she was a dipshit. Whatever.

This was an epic disappointment. It felt rushed, embellished, silly and just not wrought in true and genuine emotion. Ugh.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,204 reviews40.8k followers
March 22, 2023
My choice for best historical fiction at Goodreads choice awards 2022! I think my eyes are bleeding. They cried themselves to death. They cannot function properly anymore.

My heart hurts. It is already broken. My tears drained. I cannot gather my emotions anymore because they’re at everywhere. This is real heart ripping, soul crushing and truly earth shattering, shaking you to the core reading experience!

Ms. Hannah did it again! She shattered my soul in tiny pieces and captured my heart as like she did with Nightingale, Great Alone, Firefly Lane. I turned into a human mash and I don’t know how long I find the strength to turn back to my normal self!

This book takes place in 1930’s Texas: the time of Dust Bowl, Stock Market Crash, the very same time of people who suffer from poverty, homelessness, despair, starvation. They lost their hopes and own paths, struggling, grief stricken, witnessing to lose everything they’d worked for! These are toughest times to test people’s patience and survival skills.

Elsa Martinelli has to make a choice like her neighbors do: she may stay with her two kids and fight for her land or go west to settle in California for better life opportunities.
Her life can never be defined as a fairytale. Till her childhood times she has been forced to be a survivor, a fighter. She fought with serious illness, she worked hard to earn love of her parents who never respected or accepted who she is.

And after getting pregnant she was forced to marry a man she didn’t love. But with her marriage, she earned a real family: devoted support of in-laws: Rose and Tony. For the first time she realized how to be loved from deep in your heart.

Once upon a time, she was a loner, introverted bookworm girl but times have changed, everything became tougher. The circumstances pushed her grown up faster and wear her big girl pants to adjust the new reality of her new life.

So she raises from her ashes by turning herself a hard working farmer and a great mother. She can do anything for the love of her kids. Maybe the wrong thought patterns she inherited from her judgmental parents made her think she was not strong woman but she couldn’t be so wrong. She is tough, brave, kind hearted and a true fighter. It’s impossible not to respect and love her. She is one of the best characters Ms. Hannah created.

I don’t want to give much spoiler not to ruin your reading experience but I have to say, this is not easy, soft journey for you. It will shake you, break you, hurt you, slap you, crash you. It’s so effective, tremendously heartbreaking because it’s honest and realistic. The tragedies people face, the despair, grief, hunger, powerlessness test their mental and physical strength.

It’s poetic, shocking, heart wrenching, tear jerking, poignant!

I have no words left. I am human shell right now. This book took away all the words from my mouth. I can only say I loved it so much even though it hurt me a lot.

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sharing another fantastic Kristin Hannah’s book’s arc copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

Profile Image for Bridgett.
Author 20 books426 followers
November 27, 2021
Kristin Hannah novels are so hit and miss for me.

For instance, I absolutely loved Night Road...it's probably one of my all-time favorite books. Yet, I really fecking hated the The Nightingale.

And here's why...

Every time I read Hannah's historical fiction, I end up feeling as though she researches like a mad woman, jots down every tragedy she can find during that time period, and then destroys her main character by making her suffer through every. single. calamity.

It's too much.

This book was so horribly depressing and was so full of misery and death (animals included...it was bad, friends), that I couldn't wait for it to end. I didn't care for any of the characters and felt zero enjoyment while reading this. Yes, it was well-written, and yes, Ms. Hannah knows how to ratchet up the tension...but man, balance is a good thing. The constant, over-the-top darkness was overwhelming.

The conclusion was completely predictable and emotionally manipulative. I knew I was supposed to break down into devastated tears, but instead, I just let out a huge sigh and rolled my eyes. Does that count? I think I just need to stick to her contemporary books and skip the historical options.

I have found myself wondering if this book had been released at a different time, instead of a immediately following a worldwide pandemic and financial devastation for so many, if I might have liked it more. It's possible. Right now, it simply doesn't "play nicely" with my state of mind, and really, timing is everything.

I'm once again in the minority here, so just go ahead and read it...you know you want to.


2.5 stars
Available February 2, 2021

Despite my less than enthusiastic review, I'd like to thank NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for my review copy.
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,385 reviews7,088 followers
October 29, 2020
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️

Forgive my indulgence by starting this review on a personal note, but as a child, my parents had a saying - “Never judge a person’s life story by the chapter you find them in”. It was said with kindness and concern for others’ misfortunes, and never was this more pertinent than in The Four Winds!

1930’s Texas, the dust bowl, the stock market crash, and for the farmers across The Great Plains, came burning winds that destroyed everything in their path, and a drought so fierce that it left wheat fields so severely blasted by heat that they couldn’t be harvested, the collapse of the economy - everything that nature and life could throw at these poor unfortunate people was thrown, and life as they knew it was gone.

It is against this backdrop that we meet Elsa Martinelli, on the face of it an unremarkable woman, struggling with the question, should she stay on the home farm and keep struggling, waiting for the rains that never come, this is an area she has known her whole life, or should she take her two children and try her luck out West? Well, the decision Elsa takes, turns this unremarkable woman into one to be proud of, someone who shows us that in adversity, we can reveal the warrior who’s been hiding within.

The hardship, the sheer grinding poverty and its effects, are hard to witness here, in addition, the prejudice shown to these people who were just trying to put food on the table for their families, was shameful. Here we discovered others who were better off, who hadn’t known a day’s hardship in their lives, doing their best to grind these poor unfortunate people’s pride into the gutter - that’s if they still had any pride left to grind, after all that they’d suffered. However, the overriding message that comes across is that human beings can survive against all the odds, and that love for one’s family survives everything.

This is an epic read that is undoubtedly heartbreaking, but it’s stunning, and so beautifully written that I will take Elsa Martinelli with me in my heart for some time to come. Don’t miss this one!

*I was invited to read The Four Winds by the publisher and have given an honest unbiased review in exchange *
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews3,015 followers
July 29, 2021
Four things you’ll want to do after finishing The Four Winds:

1. Drink a ginormous glass of water. Kristin Hannah has created such a vivid portrait of the American Dust Bowl in the 1930s that you can almost feel the dirt in the back of your throat. It’s hard to imagine the ground being so dry and the weather so ferocious that you could catch dust pneumonia, yet you’ll believe it after only a few pages.

2. Look up photos of the farmers and migrants of the era. You can probably close your eyes and easily picture the famous “Migrant Mother” portrait taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936, but it took me reading this book to really grasp the helplessness of her situation.

3. Hug your mom. The relationships between our heroine Elsa and the women above and below her on her family tree are touching and unexpected. The ties that bind them together are at turns solid as the ground beneath them or frail as the animals on their land.

4. Read everything Kristin Hannah has ever written. I’m one of the rare souls who didn’t adore The Nightingale, but The Four Winds has solidified her “must read” author status with me once and for all.

I’m grateful to St. Martin’s Press and Ms. Hannah for the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy via NetGalley.

Blog: www.confettibookshelf.com
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
403 reviews3,543 followers
June 2, 2023
Elsa is a 25 year old woman who is considered an old maid at the age of 25; however, her luck changes when she meets Rafe, they get married, and settle on a farm. Fast forward a decade. Elsa now has two children, Ant and Loreda, but finds herself in the middle of The Great Depression and suffering from a series of back-to-back lackluster farm years. Should she stay on the land she loves, the legacy that she has built for her children, or should she go West to California for more opportunities?

This book was unnecessarily long, but I also thought that this book addressed an issue very near and dear to my heart: the working poor. There are many people who believe that poor people are lazy or somehow are in the situation because of something that they had done. However, there are poor people who work. There are moms who have to wake up at 3 am to work at a bakery while Grandma takes the kids to school, and mom has to pick up the kids from school, people who walk all of their clothes to a laundromat because they don't have access to a washer and dryer, people who work 2 jobs and go to school, always holding their breath that one flat tire, one illness will bring them into bankruptcy. This would be the opposite of lazy.

My favorite part of the book was when Elsa was attending the PTA meeting! That scene....what a classic!

If you really liked this book, I would highly recommend A Fine Balance.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

Connect With Me!
Blog Twitter BookTube Facebook Insta
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,204 followers
October 25, 2020
4.5 stars
“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.”

Kristin Hannah has written a number of novels and I’ve read several. In my view, her strength lies in historical fiction. This novel depicting the trials of so many people in the Dust Bowl in Texas and other places during the 1930’s, and the Dust Bowl Migration, who endured the horrible effects on their lives, is another example of how she excels in this genre.

Elsa, at twenty three has lived a sheltered life having suffered from rheumatic fever as a young girl, treated as an invalid and outsider by an uncaring family. She reads and she’s restless to live and wants more of a life. She does get another life, but it’s a difficult one filled with heartache, unbearable heat and dust you could taste, and a livelihood with her beautiful and loving in-laws that is in peril. In the midst of the Great Depression on top of all of the natural disasters, she takes her two children to California in hopes of a better life. What she finds there is a harrowing existence of poverty, horrible living conditions and slave like working conditions. But she also finds friendship that she never knew, love that she dreamed of, but never thought possible, and a role in the fight for workers’ rights.

Hannah tells us in a note that Elsa is a fictional character, but she represents the resilience and strength in the wake of seemingly uncontrollable circumstances of so many real people who lived through these times. Like most good historical fiction, reading this had me looking for information about this place and time and these events. Hannah has done justice to these times with characters to care about and a captivating story and a realistic portrayal of this slice of American history. Not quite 5 stars because I felt at times it was a little drawn out, but highly recommended for historical fiction lovers, especially. This is a heartbreaking story that had me in tears in the end, but yet the hope of the penny remained.

I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through
Edelweiss and NetGalley
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,460 reviews1 follower
March 7, 2023
This is a hard hitting historical fiction book. This is the third Kristin Hannah book I have read, and this is was not my favorite one. I really enjoyed this book a lot, and it was very well written like all the other Kristin Hannah books. Kristin Hannah books are not for the light hearted because they are hard hitting and goes into the dark parts of the subject the book is covering. This one takes place during the great depression it starts in Texas. I have to say the characters are well developed, but they are strong hearted women that does not takes crap. I loved the characters. This book made me call my Grandmother who is the strongest women I know, and she was born in 1935. I loved books that makes me really think, and I also love when they show us how much the world as changed. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (St. Martin's Press) or author (Kristin Hannah) via NetGalley, so I can give honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
March 19, 2021
whenever i think of the dust bowl era, i have traumatic flashbacks of reading ‘the grapes of wrath’ in high school. not the best experience, so ive kind of unintentionally avoided the topic ever since.

but im so glad i decided to give this a chance. i definitely connected more with the writing, the characters, and the overall story in this book.

what really got me was how much i empathised with elsa. im not a mother, but i found it remarkable just how fully i could understand the love she felt for her children and the lengths she would go to provide for them. i even found my eyes misting up on a few occasions. its definitely the great writing and characterisation which made that possible.

this is one more story KH can add to her list of ‘books that will make my readers feel something.’

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,606 reviews24.8k followers
October 19, 2020
This is epic historical fiction from Kristin Hannah, a harrowing, tough and painful read of one of American history's darkest period, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the tragedies, poverty, starvation, unemployment, the sacrifices made, set in Texas and California from the early 1920s up to WW2. It is impeccably well researched with all its excruciating details, an era seen through the eyes of a woman, a mother, and her family. The tall Elsinore or 'Elsa' has suffered poor health, is from a wealthy family who make her feel she is never as good as her sisters, never loved, that results in her poor self esteem. So when she receives attention from a younger man, Rafe Martinelli, she ends up pregnant, and despite him being already engaged, they find themselves married.

Elsa finds herself living on a farm, loved and thriving, despite it being a hard life of challenges, getting on well with her in-laws, Tony and Rosa, particularly close to Rosa, with two children, Loreda and Ant. However, living conditions become unbearable, particularly for the farming communities with the Depression, the lack of rain, the never ending drought, the failing crops and the devastating dust storms and their dreadful impact, leading to people scattering in the winds. Despite everything, for obvious reasons Elsa is reluctant to leave until the life threatening conditions worsen considerably, and they move to where it is said is the land of milk and honey, California. In a relentlessly downbeat and bleak narrative, California is far from the promised land, instead they face endless prejudice and injustice.

Elsa is a mother, a strong, courageous and indomitable woman, there is nothing she will not do for her children, the hardest of workers, in a California that exploits, with terrible working conditions and pay. Despite everything, despite the horrors, what shines through is the underlying power of the human spirit, its astonishing capacity to endure the worst of times, the despair, and survive, against all the odds. Hannah's novel speaks to, parallels, and echoes our contemporary realities, the pandemic and its crushing impact, men in power that cannot be trusted, a divided nation, and a future that looks so bleak, offering hope by illustrating people's resilience from the past. As you might well have gathered, this is clearly not the easiest of reads, so heartbreaking, but it is nevertheless powerful, compelling and riveting, of women and their relationships, a book for our times, and a historical education too. Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC.
Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 2 books716 followers
March 31, 2023
Oh man, I struggled so badly with this horrible book. I could spend days explaining why I didn't like it, but that would be silly, so I'll just list the main points here:

1. The story. The author deserves credit for the way she brought the events and horrors of the Great Depression to life. However, she immediately loses that credit for creating such a contrived (see 4), emotionally manipulative (see 5) story around it.

2. The writing. The entire book was riddled with boring details (gas prices, anyone?), and constant repetition (gas prices, anyone?), and terrible dialogue ('Gas prices, anyone?'). There was also a lot of telling rather than showing and, more annoying, showing followed immediately by telling, as though Hannah didn't quite trust her readers to understand the novel's very simple plot. The result was a book that was permanently frustrating and at least one-hundred pages too long.

3. The characters. Dreadful, one-dimensional characters like Elsa, who was constantly strong and stoical, brave and self-deprecating, and the novel's far-too-obvious hero. Characters like the quiet but loving step-parents, and the sarcastic daughter who spent her entire time rolling her eyes at each slice of shit that was served up to the family and asking rhetorical questions, which Elsa nevertheless answered with weary stoicism. Characters like the sweeter-than-saccharine son, who sounded like a badly-written Famous Five character ('Jeepers - ain't I just a cotton-pickin' wonder?').

4. The contrivances. For example, after moving to California, Elsa and the kids experience six months of relentless prejudice from the native population. But then, one morning, they take a trip down Main Street, where they suddenly make friends with a host of kindly townsfolk.

5. The emotional manipulation. Remember that episode of 'Friends', when Monica tried to make the guests at her parents' anniversary cry by giving a speech about her dead dog? OMG, THAT WAS THIS BOOK! Whether it was Ant's lung disease, or a friend's run-in with typhoid, or letters from home, or THAT ending (oh, sweet Jesus, that ending), it's clear that Hannah is playing for tears. The results are about as subtle as a fart in a spacesuit.
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
382 reviews1,666 followers
October 28, 2021
Many went west to search for a better life but their American dreams became nightmares by poverty, hardship and greed.
The past few years have been a time for things lost: jobs, homes and food. A man has to fight out there to make a living and women of The Great Plains worked from sun up to sun down too.
When they close their eyes they can still taste the dust.

Millions are out of work and there is a drought. The water is drying up and the sun burns down on all the crops, especially the wheat.
They lose their crops. Dust threatens to bury them all. This is the dust bowl era which has arrived with a vengeance, one of the darkest periods of The Great Depression.

So Elsa Martinelli takes her children West to California where there is lots of work for everyone and a better life, the American Dream.

Every time I open up a Kristin Hannah book and start reading it, I get excited because her books are usually all five star books. I loved The Nightingale. If you love historical fiction, I think you will love her too.

I just loved this book. I fell in love with the characters. My heart went out to Elsa. She grew up feeling unloved and her parents gave her a self image that she was plain and forgotten. But she then meets a farmer and finds happiness with his family. When she moves to California she finds herself and her children in poverty and hunger. Everyone there is prejudiced and they don't welcome migrants there and they call them Okies. Elsa was such a strong female character.

If you aren't a historical fiction fan, I still think you will love it because it was such a great story and it is beautifully written.

I want to thank Netgalley, St. Martin's Press and the author for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Available Now!
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
994 reviews2,782 followers
March 9, 2021

I have read five of Ms. Hannah’s novels. I would give the read itself a 3* but the beautiful writing and the incredible research that went into this book definitely earns it a 4* rating.

This book was an incredibly depressing read. I felt so much for the characters that I really had to hold myself back from crying. Particularly when injustice after injustice was endured and things kept going from bad to worse. It made me wonder how much can a person really stand before their spirit is completely broken.

Elsa was born into a family of “means”, however she suffered from a complete lack of love, attention or any kind of affection. Elsa had two sisters who were considered pretty and married at a young age. Elsa’s mother had told her this when she was in her twenties, ”You are unmarriageable, Elsinore, even with all our money and standing. No man of note wants an unattractive wife who looms over him” This last a comment on the fact that she was tall for women then, about six feet tall.

On her 25th birthday she decides to go into town and celebrate. She meets Rafe who finds Elsa interesting and beautiful in her own way. When she tells her parents that she is in love, her parents want to know who the man is. Her father then forces the marraige between Rafe and Elsa.

There are a few good years when Elsa and Rafe are living with the Martinelli’s who have embraced Elsa and their baby daughter Loreda. They are very warm and caring people and Elsa at last feels a part of a family.

Then The Great Depression and the worst drought in the history of the Great Plains hits and it’s a double whammy for the US farmers and workers.

After years of near starvation on the family farm Elsa takes her daughter Loreda and young son Ant west to California. It is said that there is work there and money to be made. However as history has told us, both farmers from the drought stricken “Dust Bowl” and workers from the cities all converge on California looking for jobs. I had hoped that here at last would be a new beginning for Elsa and her children.

It would spoil the story to tell much else about the plot. In comparing Ms. Hannah’s novels, I felt that there was hope and more vibrancy in The Nightingale and The Great Alone. This book felt like just one nightmare to the next. I realize that this is the true history of what the people endured, but it is very hard to read. I kept looking for a silver lining which never seemed to come. Perhaps in her Elsa’s daughter’s generation.

The characters were incredibly well developed and I felt for all of them. The dust storms were so well described I could envision how horrible a twister of dust blowing at 50 mph would be. So forceful that it got between every small crack in the house. In the beginning the beautiful wheat fields were described; how tall, golden and strong the wheat stalks were and went on for acres and acres. She again described some terrible scenes in California when the rains caused flooding in the tent and truck camps set up along the ditches close to the farms. How horrible to have everything you own covered in mud for weeks on end.

As you can see this book did touch me in many ways. I went online to find out more about the drought and “Dust Bowl” and realized how little I had known. This book opened my eyes to the farmers tragedy. I had read much about The Great Depression but not much about the farmer’s plight.

This is a very eye opening novel. I loved the author’s notes in which she addressed the pandemic that we are now going through and hoped that the book would teach us this:
“We’ve gone through bad times before and survived, even thrived. History has shown us the strength and durability of the human spirit. In the end, it is our idealism and our courage and our commitment to one another--what we have in common--that will save us. Now in these dark days, we can look to history, to the legacy of the greatest generation and the story of our own past, and take strength from it.” I hope that we can learn this lesson and pass it on to our children.

This novel is set to publish on February 9, 2021
I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.
March 14, 2021
Kristin Hannah’s latest novel is an outstanding historical saga sparking memories of the classic John Steinbeck story, Grapes of Wrath. Based during the great depression, the hardships and demise of small farmers and the migration of people from the Dust Bowl states in America to the land of milk and honey - California. Except, California was where “I came west in search of a better life, but my American dream was turned into a nightmare by poverty and hardship and greed.” The Four Winds is an epic story that follows the life of Elsa Martinelli, mainly from 1934 to 1936, through the most harrowing and traumatic years in American history.

As a younger woman, Elsa was repeatedly told she was ugly, tall and gangly, often ill with a weak heart, starved of love from her parents, and side-lined by her more attractive sisters. She found most of her pleasure through books (love her for that). Just to be loved even for one night, meant so much to her, but unfortunately, it led to pregnancy. Then forced into a marriage with Rafe Martinelli, disowned by her own wealthy family, and living with her in-laws, initially as a burden and blamed for their own son’s shattered dreams, she tastes shame, rejection and loneliness. Initially, I felt this was too much adversity to throw at one person, especially as her life proceeds on an unrelenting roller coaster ride between despair, joy and more despair, however, it becomes clear that it combines many issues and challenges into one person to give us a composite focal point. On a personal level, it creates incredible sympathy for Elsa and completely draws you into the story.

Elsa has a deep unconditional love for her children, Loreda and Ant, influenced no doubt from the memories of her own childhood. Gradually her mother-in-law and father-in-law, Rose and Tony, recognise Elsa’s honest and vulnerable character and come to love her as a daughter, and in return, Elsa loves them as the parents she never truly had. When her husband can’t take the misery of lost dreams, drought, dust storms, ruined crops and poverty, he leaves his family, and Elsa is blamed by her teenage daughter for him running off without them.
“ ‘Life isn’t what makes my daddy sad.’
‘Oh, really? Tell me, then, with all your worldly experience, what is it that makes your father unhappy?’
‘You,’ Loreda said.”
A brutal cut that is driven deep into her soul and yet Elsa remains steadfast and devoted to her children. When their options run out for staying in Texas, Elsa packs her children and belongings and journeys to California to find a better life. The hardship of travelling with no money, no food and constant danger, is the life of a migrant and yet all that awaits them in California is more of the same. Forced to live in migrant camps where hardship is an everyday reality, where death is much more common-place due to sickness and poverty, and where employers on cotton plantations and fruit farms only offer the minimal, barely survivable, wage because there is always someone willing to work for less. The realisation that life isn’t getting better and rather is owned and exploited by greedy landowners, drives at the injustice and hopelessness. Yet amongst the greatest poverty, the smallest amount of kindness can seem so huge. Elsa focuses on survival with a resourceful disposition that she needs to keep fighting for her family.
“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.”
A sentiment that has a contemporary resonance with the pandemic and economic collapse ravaging us today, not to mention the rich getting richer while the unfortunate stand in food lines and face eviction.

The Four Winds is one of those books that elevate your faith in the power of literature to totally captivate. Surely destined to be one of the top books of the year. I would highly recommend this book and I would like to thank St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.
February 24, 2021
5 stars! A deeply affecting, heart wrenching, unforgettable journey.

Texas, 1934. Drought has stripped the land of all life. Farmers hope and pray for rain that doesn’t come. Everything coated in dirt and dust. Massive dust clouds and storms are everyday life. Families barely surviving. News of better opportunities in California entice many to abandon their land to start over.

The Great Depression. I knew very little about this time in our history prior to reading this book. This novel provides an intimate look into what it was like for farmers to live through this uncertain and devastating time. Farmers forced to sell or give up land to survive. People and animals starving to death. Dust storms demolishing farms and homes. The intensity of the atmosphere within these pages had me completely engrossed and feeling as though I was right there with the characters. The author does a phenomenal job pulling the reader deep into this harrowing and heartbreaking time. My heart ached while reading.

These characters were outstanding! I felt deeply for them. I hoped for them. I worried for them. I mourned for them. I cried for them. I loved them.

This is not a happy story. It will break your heart repeatedly. It is one that I was so completed invested in that I had a hard time putting it down and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Even now, days after finishing it, I find myself thinking of the characters and contemplating their decisions. It is not a fast paced story. It is one you need to take your time with to truly appreciate the circumstances and grasp the severity of the time. The writing is exquisite. The atmosphere is palpable.

My one tiny critique would be that I was more emotionally invested in the first half of the book compared to the second half and some of the events near the end were slightly “too much”. Regardless of this, it was a phenomenal novel that has easily earned a spot on my 2021 Favourites Shelf. I highly recommend!

Some quotes that stood out for me:

“Absence could fill a room to overflowing, apparently.”

“She almost said, I’m scared, but what kind of mother said those words to a child who counted on her?”
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
208 reviews788 followers
February 14, 2021
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

This is a “meet you in the middle” kind of review. An “I liked it, but I didn’t love it” review.

And unfortunately, it’s a “Hannah had me for the first 75% and then blew it with the ending” review.

Yep. It’s that type of review. (Hangs head.)

In The Four Winds, Kristin Hannah’s latest novel of historical fiction, we travel back to the harrowing years of the Great Depression – one of the most challenging eras in America’s history.

It is 1934, and Texas and the Great Plains have been crippled by the Dust Bowl. Farmers are facing economic ruin due to years of endless drought. Crops refuse to grow as the ground shrivels and cracks. And violent and terrifying dust storms are striking the Plains, burying the land in dust.

Elsa Martinelli has a torturous decision to make. Should she and her family remain in Texas to fight for the home and land they love? Or should they head west to California in the hope of starting anew?

Confronted with the most difficult choice of her life, Elsa must somehow find within herself the courage and will to survive.

Undoubtedly, Kristin Hannah is a gifted writer. And she is a writer who has very much come into her own over the last five or six years, now that she’s found her niche writing historical fiction.

There are a few things that Hannah is really good at:

1. Creating likable, brave, and resilient female characters
2. Running her female characters through the wringer, multiple times over
3. Depicting the joys and sorrows of motherhood
4. Evoking readers’ emotions and inducing tears

And The Four Winds displays her skill set to maximum effect. The novel is engrossing, poignant, and unapologetically heart-wrenching. Hannah’s writing is more elegant than it has ever been, and her descriptions of the Great Plains and the dust storms are absolutely spectacular. And she has given her all to Elsa, allowing her to become the heart and soul of the novel.

Elsa’s life during the Dust Bowl is filled with nothing but hardship and strife. She faces trial after trial, tribulation after tribulation, and she perseveres, time and again, pushing aside all fear and pain. For she has no choice but to survive – she has two children, Loreda and Ant – and their lives are dependent upon her. Elsa displays remarkable courage over the course of the novel, and it’s nearly impossible to not care for her welfare.

But The Four Winds is about more than just survival. It’s a beautiful and realistic tribute to motherhood – the good, the bad, and the ugly of it. Through Elsa, Hannah vividly captures not only the unconditional love of mothers and their fierce instinct to protect their children, but also the insurmountable joy, pride, worry, and pain that motherhood encompasses.

And the story is heartbreaking. More than once, tears burned my eyes for Elsa. She is put through so much more than any one person should ever have to bear, and it is extremely hard to be an observer of it.

This then brings me to my first criticism – it’s too much. All the obstacles, the suffering, the storms . . . it wears on the reader and begins to feel unrealistic. It’s as if Hannah takes every single fact and event she uncovered in her research and throws it all at Elsa. And while I have no doubt that what Elsa experiences in The Four Winds did actually happen to those who lived during the Dust Bowl, it’s unbelievable that all of it could happen to one person.

But still, my incredulity did not interfere with my enjoyment of the story. At least not until the ending.

Which is nothing short of a disappointment.

Why? Because it’s pure melodrama. It’s schmaltzy, over-the-top, and emotionally manipulative. My eyes rolled more than they cried, and the unnecessary sappiness made me a bit ill.

In one fell swoop, Hannah lost me. And I knocked a full star off my review.

So, here you go – here is my “meet you in the middle” review of The Four Winds.

Three stars for the ending. Five stars for everything else.

Four stars, overall, feels just about right.

My sincerest appreciation to Kristin Hannah, St. Martin's Press, and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy. All opinions included herein are my own.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for Kerry Clair.
1,006 reviews12 followers
August 25, 2020
So let me get this straight. A book that supports and pushes COMMUNISM as the answer to struggles in America? What the heck is the world coming to when authors write things like this? Was it a good story? Yes. Well written? Yes. But the hidden agenda and blatant glorification of communism is a huge problem for me. I won’t be reading any more from this author. If you don’t like this country and our form of government, it’s time for you to move. Go live in a communist country and come back and tell me how great it is. Go for it.
Profile Image for Thomas.
730 reviews175 followers
April 4, 2021
An easy 4 stars for a book of courage in face of soul destroying poverty. Four Winds is the story of Elsa Wolcott and her marriage to Rafe Martinelli, after she becomes pregnant with his child. She is disowned and shunned by her family because of this forced marriage to someone they regard as lower class. She moves into the Martinelli home. Rafe's parents welcome her as one their own in 1921 rural panhandle Texas.
But then the drought comes and crops no longer grow. This period is now known as the Dust Bowl. Rafe's holds on for a couple of years, but then deserts his wife and 2 children, leaving a note, saying he is looking for a job. Elsa stays for another year, but when her son Ant almost dies from a silicosis lung infection caused by a dust storm, Elsa decides to go west.
She arrives in California's San Joaquin Valley. She ends up picking cotton at wages that keep her family in perpetual debt and poverty. The story of her struggle to provide for her family is inspiring, but truly depressing.
Two quotes: "Poverty was a soul destroying thing. A cave that tightened around you, its pinprick of light closing a little more at the end of each desperate, unchanged day."

"Love is what remains when everything else is gone. This is what I should have told my children when we left Texas."
This is a long book, at 477 pages and I read it in 11 days.
My wife also enjoyed this book, but rated it 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. She said "This book is a Woody Guthrie song in prose."
Thanks to St Martin's Press for sending me this eARC through NetGalley. #TheFourWinds #NetGalley
Profile Image for Beata.
736 reviews1,112 followers
December 30, 2020
For a long time I have wanted to read a book on the Dust Bowl, explaining reasons behind it and telling stories of all brave people who survived that environmental disaster that happened in the early 1930s in the Great Plains. I came across the Dust Bowl tragedy while reading some reviews of books tackling this subject, and was puzzled by the phenomenon which had such a horrific impact on the lives of millions. The times were hard, the Great Depression struck and added to the near famine and poverty suffered by town dwellers and farmers who had struggled to cultivate land and produce crops for their communities.
The Four Winds is a work of fiction but Ms Hannah drew on documents, films and memories of those who survived the Dust Bowl, left Texas or Oklahoma in search of a better life in California, and learnt that their fight had to continue. This book is a tribute to determined farmers and migrants living in the era of sacrifice and daily hardships.
*A big thank-you to Kristin Hannah, Pan Macmillan, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for Ashley.
487 reviews218 followers
March 12, 2021
I hate to say, one of my most anticipated reads for the year by one of my favorite authors was a gigantic disappointment. Within most modern books (and movies) lately, the political messages saturating the pages are about as subtle as a gun to the head. Kristin Hannah, unfortunately, decided to venture deep into the political arena with The Four Winds.

I enjoy reading historical novels for the chance to connect past to present and gain a bit of hope from the struggles people have endured and overcome. I desired to find the same hope from this story, but for the life of me, I couldn't find it despite being told I should feel it from the author. After a grueling year and the start of what appears to be another following in its footsteps, I would think most readers, like myself, would be looking for uplifting stories as a form of escapism from our current struggles. The Four Winds couldn't have been farther from this. Naturally, I knew reading about The Great Depression would be...depressing, for lack of a better word. However, I didn't expect the entirety of the novel to be one disastrous hardship after the next...after the next. By the end of the book, I was left more crushed in spirit than when I started. It left me wondering why the author and publishers thought this would be an opportune time to release such a book.

The painting of Communism in such a favorable light can be the only answer as America teeters on the edge of a complete Socialist takeover. Like many other readers have said, I don't like being emotionally manipulated for the sake of politics. When I notice this happening, it immediately creates a detachment between myself and the characters. If Communism is such a savior of the oppressed, why during the same period this novel is set in did Communist Russia imprison over a million people and execute hundreds of thousands? I think this book was intentionally deceptive in its portrayal of Marxist practices, knowing the audience for this highly anticipated novel would be huge. Playing on the emotions of readers is a surefire way for them to be sympathetic to the rise of modern Communism.

Maybe Kristin Hannah will distribute the wealth this book is sure to bring to her faithful readers, showing us a true example of the Communism she surely admires? I doubt it.

I'm personally over the "1984"-style indoctrination from the entertainment industries in America. I hope for better in the future from Kristin Hannah, but I can tell you, I won't be quite as eager to read her next book.
Profile Image for Theresa Alan.
Author 10 books1,019 followers
October 14, 2020
I’d wanted a book that would make me cry, and this one really delivered. The hardships faced by Elsa are simply relentless. This is a good novel for the era of Covid when many Americans are publicly bitching about having to wear their masks at the Walmart--read this and you will stop complaining.

The story is set at the same time as The Grapes of Wrath: the Great Depression combined with the Dust Bowl. Now I’m going to have to re-read that novel, although this is a wonderful story from the point of view of a female of that era. The hardships she faces make wearing a mask at the grocery store seem pretty easy, and it’s a good reminder to be grateful for all the many ways our lives are no where near as bad as what Elsa and her family have to face.

The Texas panhandle is one of the places that the Dust Bowl decimated farms, so eventually Elsa takes her children west to California, the land of milk and honey, where there is supposed to be tons of work for everybody. One of the big money makers for migrants was picking cotton—I had no idea that’s ever been a crop in California. They face disgusting discrimination from the settled Californians because of how they have to live to scrape by. “People get scared when they lose their jobs, and they tend to blame outsiders. The first step is to call them criminals. The rest is easy.”

I highly recommend this novel. It’s wonderful.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this novel, which RELEASES FEBRUARY 9, 2021.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
February 5, 2021
Review also posted on blog: https://books-are-a-girls-best-friend...

A Beautifully Written, Heartbreaking Novel!

The year is 1921, the setting is Texas, during the Great Depression.

Elsa is a young woman who has never known love. Ignored by her family, she yearns for a different life. The first time a man pays attention to her, Elsa becomes wholly smitten. That man is Rafe Martinelli. His intentions are less than stellar, as Elsa comes to find out when she discovers she is with child and she finds out he is engaged to be married to someone else. Yet his parents, Tony and Rose are kind and generous (unlike her own) and they insist on doing the right thing and Rafe and Elsa marry.

Going from an affluent home to live on a farm, Elsa learns a whole new way of life and yet she takes to it beautifully, working harder than even her husband and enmeshing herself into the Martinelli family. Raising first a daughter, Loreda and then a son, Ant, Elsa is both overprotective and overbearing.

At first life on the farm while hard work, is full of abundant crops and rewarding days and then the drought comes and it never goes away. Crops die and food is scarce. Thereafter the dust storms hit and days get even harder. Each day Elsa, her father, and mother-in-law pray for rain, and each day it ceases to come. Day after day and year after year. There is no end in sight.

The day slowly comes when the family makes the decision to head west to California in search of a better life. Promises of jobs and the land of milk and honey don’t quite ring true with what they find upon arrival. Lucky for Elsa, hard work and determination are her middle names.

Desolation, devastation, heartache, heartbreak, and loss. “The Four Winds” is a novel that encompasses all of those words and yet it is also about survival. The ability to survive during the absolute worst of times. Family, friendship, and love are also prevalent themes in this book and Kristin Hannah showcases them all beautifully.

There is much sadness here. A heaviness that is pervasive. I can’t say that I ever felt a moment of happiness while reading “The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah and yet I will say that I loved the beautiful, lyrical writing, the characters, and the strength they showed throughout. It is a testament to Ms. Hannah, that she was able to make me love the book and the characters of Elsa, Tony, Rose, Ant, and Loreda (difficult though she may have been at times) when parts of this storyline were so completely and wholly depressing.

What resonated with me was this books’ underlying message which is that a human being can survive anything - which I think is especially true for all of us to remember right now.

A huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Kristin Hannah for the arc.

Published on Goodreads on 10.4.20.
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,052 reviews49.2k followers
August 9, 2021
are the 10 most popular books of 2021 according to goodreads worth your time?

i suppose i appreciated this a little more than The Nightingale since the Great Depression/Dust Bowl are often overlooked times in history. however... this didn't feel like an original story. i mean i guess this had a mother/daughter dynamic rather than a sister dynamic... but c'mon. quiet but strong older woman and fiery younger girl? predictable and done before by this author.

and that's to say nothing of the over the top sadness and suffering.

idk. i was interested in the story pretty much the entire time i listened. but who's to say how much of that was the phenomenal narrator and how much of that was the actual story. not terrible but likely my last kristin hannah read.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
962 reviews40 followers
May 20, 2021
Like The Nightingale, The Four Winds sported a narrative that was rather distant and emotionally restrained. Once again, I found it incredibly hard to relate to Hannah's main character, Elsa Martinelli (née Wolclott), with Hannah relaying all her characterization through telling and confining the showing to limited scenes with small spells of action to pull the plot along with the incredibly stilted dialogue.

Hannah's style is just not for me. Her reliance on the constantly moving story would normally be great, but she has no flare for realistic dialogue — her preference for dropping bell-tolling lines at the end of segments or chapters is exhausting in its predictability. And the tendency Hannah has of constantly dropping cultural references as mile markers is about as heavy handed as a sledgehammer to the skull.

For instance, early in the book, Elsa gets bold (which is her break-from-character moment that catapults her into the rest of the story) and buys some red silk fabric which she decides to whip up into a flapper-style dress. It comes from out of nowhere, she doesn't fit in with anyone else in the town in this dress — even when she goes out late at night for some random bit of fun, it's a flash bang moment that serves a certain purpose in the story in propelling the plot forward for Hannah.

Hannah's style lacks too much nuance for my taste. If there's a decade-related Plains reference that screams 1930s, it's probably woven somewhere very clumsily into this story, attached with some variant on the verb call.

Flappers, they were being called.

Dry farming, it was called, and it was promised to them here.

Instead, Loreda saw hobos gathered around the train depot, wearing rags, their back pockets turned inside out in what were being called Hoover flags.

'Banksters,' they were called these days, for the way they cheated hard working folk out of their land and then went bust and closed their doors, keeping the money people had thought was safe.

Dust pneumonia. That was what they called it, but it was really loss and poverty and man's mistakes.

'...Okies, they call us. Don't matter where we're from.'

'...One of them had something called a Twinkie.'

'From Kansas. What they're calling the Dust Bowl, and doll, it surely was.'

'...The so-called Bum Blockade—the closing of state borders—is over, so migrants are pouring into the state again.'

'We heard. The growers bullied the state into it. They're calling it the No Work, No Eat policy.'

'People died that day,' Natalia said. 'Strikers. They called it Bloody Thursday.'

All-in-all, this read like a slight twang-injected Wikipedia entry or textbook excerpt. I've already packed up the two physical books by Hannah that I owned and had not yet read, and given them to a friend.

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This affected neither my opinion of the book, nor the content of my review.
Profile Image for Tammy.
512 reviews431 followers
July 31, 2020
This is America during the 1930’s.
This is America after the stock market crash.
This is America of the dust bowl.
This is America of the forgotten farmer and the unemployed turned migrant worker: homeless, poverty stricken experiencing starvation, cruelty, and despair.
This is a book that urges us to look back and lament.

Given what is going on in my country this is an America perilously close to a precipitous edge. Let’s hope that these hard times don’t become the “worst hard times.”
Profile Image for Debbie W..
726 reviews492 followers
February 14, 2022
I had just started listening to this audiobook (with fine narration by Julia Whelan) when my daughter gifted me a hard copy for my birthday, so I began reading the actual book instead.

1. definitely a character-driven novel! Right from the start, I had empathy for Elsa. With her soul being stomped on in her early formative years, watching her slowly transform into a courageous woman, thankfully with the love of caring people along the way, made her a character to root for;
2. I felt the plot moved along appropriately - we needed to experience the intensity of each major hurdle to understand why the characters (especially Elsa) did what they had to do;
3. the book's setting of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression heightened my knowledge about this time period. Even though the Dust Bowl never reached the area where I currently reside in Alberta, it greatly affected the Palliser Triangle of the Prairie Provinces. To this day, we implement various soil conservation techniques on our farmland that were encouraged in the 1930s, saving tons of topsoil from drought conditions in more recent years. Some friends and neighbors were migrants from the U.S. and settled on homesteads in our area. Although I knew what "Hoover wagons" were ("Bennett buggies" in Canada), I learned what "Hoover flags" and "Hoover leather" were, extending my curiosity into Canadian terminology (a "Bennett blanket" was a newspaper and "Bennett coffee" was roasted wheat); and,
4. I was totally ignorant about the plight of American migrants to California during this time period! I always believed that once in California, everyone was fulfilled with plentiful jobs and better living conditions. Not so! From this story, I was appalled by the intense hardships and discrimination these people endured, and the lengths they went through for a better life (similar conditions for the Have-Nots were also here in Canada!) I guess I better read my copy of The Grapes of Wrath real soon! Thankfully, the random acts of kindness shown Elsa and her family were the sprinkling of hope this reader needed!

1. I could never warm to Lareda's character! To me, she seemed inexplicably harsh to the extreme towards her mother. I would understand this if Elsa was at least a somewhat crappy mother; and,
2. although I really enjoyed this story as a whole (well-written and researched with interesting characters), it didn't tug at my heartstrings like I thought it would. I love a good tearjerker, but I just didn't get there with this story.

Unbelievably, this is my first Kristin Hannah book, but it won't be my last! Overall, a fine story!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 53,059 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.