“In the mirror, she’d seen more than her face. She’d seen the girl she’d been before all of this. A dreamer, a believer. Someone who would go places. How had she forgotten all of that?”
Set in the darkest period of the great depression, the dust bowl era, The Four Winds tells us the story of Elsa.
Elsa, born as a sick child in a wealthy family was never loved. Her family has always made her feel so unworthy. Inspired the books she read, she yearns to get out and chase her dreams. Then, she meets Rafe Martinelli an italian man who is so charming. When she gets pregnant with his child, her family disowns her and she is married into this new unknown family. With time, Elsa has carved out a piece of paradise for herself– a loving family, a land to farm and be proud of, and a mother-in-law whose initial suspicion quickly turns to affection. She gives birth to beautiful children Loreda and Ant. However, living conditions become unbearable, particularly for the farming communities with the Depression, the lack of rain, the never ending drought, the failing crops and the devastating dust storms and their dreadful impact, leading to people scattering in the winds. With husband out of picture and her younger son becomes gravely ill, he must decide whether to stick it out and hope for an end to this hell, or leave on a perilous journey west to California.
Reading about the great bowl era was horrifying. Like most good historical fiction, reading this had me looking for information about this place and time and these events . The drought. the wind, people sleeping in gas masks, the author has almost made us understand and empathize with their struggles. Reading this, I realized world hasn’t changed as much. The marginal people are always treated differently regardless of the time. It does draw parallels to the current reality with immigration issues.
This is a story of survival. Its about a woman, who wasn’t dealt a fair hand in life, making the best out of everything she has. I admired her strength and resilience. She reminded me of my mother, grand mothers and aunts. Its about Elsa, trying to find her voice, trying to become someone other than a daughter, wife or a mother. It also tells you, with love, you can survive anything.
Love is what remains when everything else is gone. This is what I should have told my children when we left Texas. What I will tell them tonight. Not that they will understand yet. How could they?
The Four Winds will be one of my favorite reads this year. This is a beautifully written, emotional piece of historical fiction. Hannah once again proves herself an impeccable storyteller.