The Four Winds tells the story of a family broken apart and healed by the Dust Bowl. A childhood illness left Elsa Wolcott sickly and weak, at least in her family’s eyes. She was destined to stay single, living with her parents, becoming their caretaker someday. However, that changed when she met and fell in love with Rafe Martinelli and became pregnant. A quick marriage gave her a new family since her old one wanted nothing to do with her. In time, she finds happiness with her children, her in-laws, and her somewhat distant husband. In that order.
The Dust Bowl winds blew apart her marriage and her future. Rafe left in the night. Her son could not survive the damage to his lungs from the wind. They were near-starvation on the farm. Finally, she moves with her children to California, the land of promise and plenty, leaving behind her beloved in-laws. There she meets exploitive farmers and becomes involved in the farmworker struggle for fairer working conditions and pay and finds herself as well as love.
I was a bit disappointed in The Four Winds perhaps because I thought Hannah does so well with creating both a sense of place and character in “The Great Alone.” That book may have set my expectations too high leading to disappointment. Perhaps I am also unfair because I think “The Grapes of Wrath” is one of the best books ever written and The Four Winds feels like it takes Tom Joad, Ma Joad, and Jim Casy and combines them in Elsa Wolcott.
I think many people will love it. I thought this book was great up until the end. Sometimes an ending can be perfect for some people and make other people mad. This made me mad. And again, Hannah added a chapter to wrap things up after the dust cleared. I don’t want to dissuade anyone from reading what will be a great book to many people, so I am making as clear as possible that what disappointed me was not her ability to write a compelling story but because it was too full of Grapes for me.
I received an e-galley of The Four Winds from the publisher through NetGalley.