The Four Winds

by Kristin Hannah, 2021

Historical fiction covering the dust bowl, the depression, and the plight of Okies in California. Elsa is blasted by one traumatic event after another. She’s an unwanted oldest daughter of a wealthy family in Texas. She gets pregnant by an Italian boy, Rafe, who is forced to marry her. His mother and father, Rose and Tony, grow to love Elsa, but Rafe leaves her and their two children when the dust storms begin. When youngest child, Ant, gets dust pneumonia, Elsa takes him and her daughter, beautiful Loreda, to California. There they live in a homeless camp, become migrant workers, survive a flood, fall in love with Jack, and then Elsa is shot to death in the middle of a strike against the growers.

The book was 448 pages long. Christie recommended it. She said it was a really good book but it “goes on and on and you’re almost ready to quit reading and then it gets really good. You also get a feeling for what the dust bowl was like and the oppression farm workers experienced. Really enlightening.”

The writing is bad in this book – 448 pages of schlock. So much drama and trauma and then she dies. On page 400, a friend of hers is dying of typhoid fever in the back of a truck. After busting up a hospital to get some aspirin for her, because the company store is closed, here’s the conversation:

Elsa climbed up into the bed of the truck, settled in on Jean’s other side. “Hey, you, bad girl. I’ve got some aspirin.”

Jean’s eyes fluttered open.

“I hear you’re making trouble, demanding gin,” Elsa said.

“One martini before I die. Don’t seem too much to ask.”

Elsa helped Jean swallow two aspirin and drink a glass of water, and then stroked her friend’s hot forehead. “Don’t you give up, Jean…”

Jean stared up at Elsa, breathing heavily, sweating. “You dance, Elsa,” she said, almost too quietly to be heard. “For both of us.” Jean squeezed Elsa’s hand. “I loved you, girlfriend.”

Not past tense. Please.

She heard Jeb start to cry.

“I love you, too, Jean,” Elsa whispered.

Jean slowly turned her head to look at her husband. “Now…where…are my babies, Jeb?”

Elsa had to force herself to move away, get out of the truck. The four Dewey children climbed up and gathered around Jean.

Elsa heard whispering. Elroy said, “I will, Ma,” as the girls cried.

And then Jean’s broken voice: “I had so much more to say to y’all…”

Loreda touched Elsa’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”

Elsa’s answer was a primal scream.

Once she started, she couldn’t stop.

Really hard to get through.