Book Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

While working as a bookseller over a decade ago, I stumbled across a beautiful cover that evoked childhood memories and tugged at my heart. Yes, I know; we aren’t meant to judge books by their covers. But we all do, don’t we? I knew I needed to give this book a home, so I tucked it to the side and bought it after my shift.

That book was Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. I absolutely devoured it, and it devoured me right back. The writing, the character development, the plot; all of these perfectly done components combined to make me a lifelong fan of this author. I quickly found other books she’d written, and they gripped me in the same way Firefly did.

Kristin Hannah’s novels are the kind that stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover. I can still recall scenes from Firefly Lane, etched in to my mind as though it were a fond memory. This phenomena occurs over and over again as I read her novels; just glimpsing a cover can take me back to a certain scene, where I read it, and who I was when I read it.

The Four Winds is another beautifully crafted novel that will transport its reader across the plains. It follows Elsa, a woman who has always been told her life will be a certain way, as she breaks free of those constraints and strives to be who she believes she can be. The novel follows her path through the Dust Bowl and to California, where the four winds have pulled her to try and make a new life.

This book reaches into your heart and clenches it from the moment you meet Elsa. She is strong, capable, intelligent, and vastly undervalued. Elsa’s story is expansive and encompassing, told as she battles the inner battles forged from years of emotional abuse to the physical battles of surviving the Depression.

Elsa struggles to reconcile the American Dream promised to her with her reality of struggle, and must choose between fighting to survive or fighting to thrive.

Hannah’s writing is impeccable as ever, as she weaves this story through multiple timelines and narrators. The reader is dropped into 1930s Texas on the brink of the Depression and Dust Bowl, written in an enveloping way such that you can nearly feel the heat and taste the dust.

The characters are thoroughly developed and portrayed exquisitely. From the tempestuous teen to the callous parent to the potential amorous suitor, each character has depth and layers. The plot is intricately woven across space and time, guiding the reader through historic events in a delicate balance of providing the historical context without over-explaining.

Once again, Hannah will wrench your heart this way and that, so go into this one with tissues. These characters are ones that will stay with you, jumping back into your memory when you pass a field of wheat gently waving the in the breeze, or see a wide blue sky with just a hint of rain at the horizon.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy of this book.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is available for preorder from your favorite bookseller, and will be released February 2, 2021.

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