‘The Four Winds’ by Kristin Hannah

“It wasn’t the fear that mattered in life. It was the choices made when you were afraid. You were brave because of your fear, not in spite of it”.

Survival Story

So far, I have only read one book by Hannah – ‘The Nightingale’ which was an incredible and emotional story about two sisters that were doing everything they can to survive the Nazi occupation in France during World Word II. ‘The Four Winds’ is set in Texas during the Great Depression and focuses on Elsa Martinelli and her daughter as they try to survive a drought that has destroyed their land and livelihood of crops. It’s another survival story that left me in tears and I started to see a pattern with Hannah’s writing – the theme of women going through extremely difficult times trying to survive and protect their families. A definite must read and a five – star rating from me.

The Dust Bowl Era

Elsa’s childhood and early adulthood weren’t easy. She was never really accepted by her parents and when she got pregnant she was forced to leave the family home and move in with her in-laws – the Martinellis’. Turns out, this was the best thing that has happened to her. After a while, they become a loving family, owning a beautiful land to farm and a house filled with child’s laughter. Elsa enjoyed the hard work on the farm; it gave her a purpose that she never had.

Then the dust storms came and destroyed everything they have worked for. The land dried out, there was barely any food to feed everyone, not to mention to keep a few of the farm animals alive to keep the farm going. There were times, they had to wear gas masks to protect themselves from the storms. People were suffering from dust pneumonia and many died. Elsa never wanted to leave the farm, it was her home and every day she was praying for the rain. The rain never came and when her son became seriously ill she needed to make the choice, stay or go west to California where the living conditions were better.

The Land of Milk and Honey

To protect her family, Elsa decided to go West. With the little money she had, she took her children and drove across America hoping for a better tomorrow. The journey itself was extremely dangerous for a single mother with two children but it was nothing compared to what was waiting for her in California. Although the story is fiction, the background is based on what really happened during the Dust Bowl. Families that migrated from the Great Planes to California during that period met with inhumane leaving conditions, extremely physical hard work for very little pay with no access to healthcare and education.

It is not an easy read, there is a lot of pain and suffering. So many families were fed with false hopes and left with broken dreams. I am currently reading ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck that tells the story of another family trying to escape the Dust Bowl. The first edition was published in 1939 when the rain finally returned in significant amounts, signalling the end of this horrific period.

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