Getting to Know Kristin Hannah and The Four Winds

Thursday, April 22, 2021


The Four Winds: A Novel by Kristin Hannah

Published by St. Martin's Press, February 2, 2021

Genre: Fiction

Format: I audiobooked this one via Libby

I came to this novel a huge fan of Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone, a novel that begins with a family who impulsively decides to homestead in Alaska in the 1970s. The father is an abusive flake and Vietnam Vet. He and his wife Cora have a complicated relationship. The story really follows the pair's daughter, Leni, as she navigates growing up, working to make friends in the sparsely populated wilderness, camped out in the loft of her parent's one-room survival shanty.

The Four Winds had much in common with The Great Alone. Exchange the harsh but breathtaking Alaskan wilderness for the treasured but parched and unforgiving farms of the 1930s. Include a strong mother-daughter pair who survives in spite of the circumstances. Throw in a pile of engaging plot twists and one or two tragic moments.

I have yet to read Hannah's The Nightengale. It's actually one I picked up and put down for another day. Some call The Nightingale her best. Critics of Hannah's say that her characters are flat and some of her plot twists are implausible. I don't agree with the idea that the characters in these books are flat. The women in these books struggle with complicated decisions, try to do what's best for their families, and also commit crimes. Though they're not the most nuanced or original characters I've ever read, I liked them, and I understood their flaws and motivations.

My favorite part of Hannah's writing is her clear depictions of settings. After reading The Great Alone, I loved Alaska. I felt like I'd experienced living through an Alaskan winter. After reading The Four Winds, I could see the struggles of those who lived through the Dust Bowl: the gas masks they had to wear during dust storms, the mud that came from the cows they struggled to milk, the withered wheat that burned to dust before it could grow. 


“Jean reached over for Elsa’s hand and held it. Elsa hadn’t known until right then how much difference a friend could make. How one person could lift your spirit just enough to keep you upright.”


I liked this book. I'm interested in the 1930s, especially in California, so it was interesting to have a different perspective on this setting than Of Mice and Men.

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