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Book Review: “The Four Winds”

By Pavana Upadhyaya Dec. 8, 2021


Rating: (4/5) Pros: Accurate depictions of history, captivating story of love and loss. Cons: Some underdeveloped characters.


Set during the Great Depression, veteran author Kristin Hannah’s historical fiction “The Four Winds” tells a story of survival, desperation and independence, centering around the resilience of a mother and her daughter as they brave the perils of living through one of the most arduous periods in American history.


The narrative opens in 1921 when a young Texan woman, Elsa Martinelli, is outcast from her oppressive family for falling in love with a Catholic Italian immigrant, Rafe. Elsa marries Rafe and moves in with her in-laws, a humble agricultural family; for a number of years, their farm prospers. Fast forward to 1934, where the situation is starkly different: frequent dust storms and lack of rain have desiccated the farmland, which parallels the couple’s dying relationship. Poverty-stricken, the tight-knit family is faced with two choices: stay on the farm, where the prospects of selling crops look low, or move west in hopes of starting anew.


One of “The Four Winds” biggest strengths is how historical accuracy is used to construct the plot—Hannah weaves in real events, such as Black Sunday, one of the deadliest storms of the Dust Bowl era, into her narrative. Instead of being bogged down with informational facts, a pitfall that some historical novels suffer from, this book illustrates earnest depictions of the loss and devastation that people faced during the Great Depression to craft a story that is realistic yet touching.


Instead of being bogged down with informational facts, a pitfall that some historical novels suffer from, this book illustrates earnest depictions of the loss and devastation that people faced during the Great Depression to craft a story that is realistic yet touching.

Occasionally, the characters appear flat and archetypical—Elsa always seems perfectly willing to make sacrifices for others, while her son, Antony, is an empty side character who, after Hannah uses him as a plot device in the middle of the book, is regulated to saying small quips. However, Hannah successfully articulates the ambivalence of character conscience with Elsa’s young daughter, Loreda. Though her actions and attitudes can sometimes be frustrating, like initially resenting her mother for refusing to leave the family farm, Loreda is redeemable: as the family journeys west, she takes charge, supporting her mother in their quest to find stable employment in California. Loreda’s literary significance lies in her aspirations of moving west, a quintessential representation of the American Dream as something that over-promises but always under-delivers.


Unafraid to explicate the fragility of humankind against an unforgiving world, “The Four Winds” is a heart-wrenching read about the lengths that people take to simply survive. Despite its few flaws, the story is a poignant portrait of the struggles people faced chasing the American Dream.


 

About the Contributor

Pavana Upadhyaya

Feature School and Sports Editor


Pavana Upadhyaya is a junior at Leland High School and the Sports and Feature School page editor for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and oil painting.

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