Overall rating: 5/5
Genre: Historical fiction
Read if you loved: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
Content warnings: Human and animal suffering, child loss
I’m embarrassed to admit that this was my first Kristin Hannah novel but I can guarantee you that it won’t be my last. Wow. I think I need to go to therapy after reading The Four Winds because this book destroyed me. In the best way possible.
Elsa Martinelli never knew love until she had her children. Neglected from a young age and cast aside for long after, her every decision has been guided by her desire to belong, and it seems that she has finally carved out a safe haven for herself with her new family. But it is 1934 in Texas, and everything is about to change. As drought plagues the farms she lovingly tends to, and terrifying dust storms threaten her family’s health and livelihood, she is faced with a question she never thought would be asked. Is it time to leave her land to find better opportunities elsewhere? But California is not the land of milk and honey, and she learns that the hard way. The Four Winds is a tale of courage, sacrifice, and the relentless pursuit of love in the most harrowing circumstances, and its depiction of the inextinguishable spirit of human resilience will leave you breathless and broken all at the same time.
I instantly connected with Elsa. She might go down as one of my favorite protagonists ever, that’s how much I loved everything about her. Her strength, her intelligence, and her capacity for love is astounding, and that’s not even touching on her remarkable growth over the course of the novel. I was breathing, crying, and laughing right alongside her during every single moment. And it wasn’t just Elsa. Every female character who we meet in The Four Winds is a force of nature in their own way, and their relationships with Elsa provided some of the most heartwarming moments in the most dire situations. And then there’s the writing. My goodness. This isn’t a fast-paced book but I could not put it down because of how immersive it is – the imagery, the dialogue, the way the plot unravels before your eyes – you cannot look away. And of course, I would remiss if I didn’t mention that this was a very enlightening story. I’m not as familiar with The Great Depression or the Dust Bowl Era and I was hooked. Right after finishing, I googled Black Sunday and sunk into stories online – and that’s the power of good historical fiction right there.
This isn’t so much a “con” as it is a warning – this book is INCREDIBLY DEPRESSING. Truly, do not read this unless you’re ready to feel battered and torn up, because that is what it will do to you. It keeps getting worse, too, and you will find yourself clinging to the slimmest bit of hope only for it to be violently ripped away. I considered docking a half-star because a part of me thought the ending took things a little too far – but maybe it’s because I was just so upset about it. It’s heavy and challenging to read, so make sure you line up a lighthearted romcom or something along those lines to follow because you will need it.
I 100% recommend this book to anyone with an interest in historical fiction or women’s literature because it is undoubtedly incredible. That being said, make sure you’re in the right head space for it! I had a bad day while reading The Four Winds and took a little break because I needed something lighter to escape into at the time. Of course now my question is – which Kristin Hannah novel do I read next? The Nightingale? The Great Alone? Let me know what you think in the comments below!