You know how they say history repeats itself? Well, if you need proof, pick up a copy of Kristin Hannah’s latest novel, The Four Winds. The story of the Martinelli family, and particularly the relationship between mother Elsa and daughter Loreda, is a familiar one, but it’s told so beautifully that you can’t help but invest yourself in their lives. The story centers around Elsa, but weaves in and out between the perspective of Elsa and Loreda, giving you a more complete look at the family’s circumstances and highlighting the different realities of mother and daughter. Elsa begins the book as a quiet, unloved little girl, and we watch her pour all that love she wished she had gotten into her children, Loreda and Ant. Life on a farm in 1930s Texas is excruciatingly difficult, and after a barrage of dust storms, Elsa takes her family to the promised land of California, only to find out that it isn’t all it was advertised to be.
This would be a gripping, can’t-put-down novel no matter what, but the timing of this release is hard to ignore. In a moment where we are grappling with a climate crisis, a rise in hate crimes, systemic racism, and an economic downturn spurred on by a global pandemic, the plights of the Great Depression are eerily familiar. Reading about the Martinelli farm and family being at the mercy of the land and the weather is a stark reminder of how dire our climate crisis can become, and how desperately we need to care for our planet. The migrant workers being turned away from hospitals, laughed out of schools, and paid an unlivable wage for back-breaking work is gut-wrenching, and a reminder of the dehumanization and xenophobia that still exists in this country with those deemed “other.” Plus, though we aren’t technically in a depression at the moment, the lack of jobs and economic uncertainty for so many is very much relevant today.
The through line for the whole story, though, is love, and while that might sound cheesy, it’s actually quite uplifting. Elsa Martinelli’s love for her family is what enables her to be brave and survive, and though the world may be swirling around them, her strength and devotion never falters. By the end of the book, you’ll have an urge to stand up straight and call your mom. I know I did.
“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.”
The characters are worth investing in, but be prepared that circumstances here kind of go from bad to worse. The family gets dealt a rough set of cards, and they don’t get a ton of lucky breaks. More powerful, less happy-go-lucky.
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