by Kristin Hannah
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Length: 15 hours and 2 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Narration: 5 cups Speed: 1.25x
The Four Winds, by #1 New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah, is an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America's most defining eras—the Great Depression.
"If I close my eyes, I can still taste the dust..."
Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods. The crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all.
In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman who will discover the best in herself in the worst of times.
*This program includes a bonus conversation between the author and narrator.
I love historical fiction based on actual events, and when I saw Julia Whelan was narrating The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, I knew I had to dive in.
I laughed, cried, was ashamed, and found aspects relevant to today’s headlines. Hannah brought the events, hardships, and characters to life with vivid imagery.
I’ve read several books about the Dust Bowl and Great Depression but learned new things as Hannah takes the listener from the hardships of a Texas farm to the promises of a better life in the state of milk and honey.
The story begins when we meet young Elsa, a shy, book-loving and awkward young girl who meets a young Italian farmer. What follows shares her life story from hardships to triumphs as the US faces turmoil.
The author did a splendid job of giving the listener background and helping us understand our protagonists’ beginnings from the daughter of a wealthy businessman to the wife of a farmer. I connected with Elsa, understood her and admired her.
We bear witness to the tragic events surrounding the Dust Bowl, which pushed the US into an economic depression and displaced many. Families starved and succumb to the harsh environment. I could hear the dust and feel the desperation of these hardworking folks.
In 1934, Elsa travels west with her young children in search of a job. I knew very little about what happened to folks who headed west to California during this time. It horrified me. The story resonates with current news stories surrounding low wages, affordable housing, discrimination and more. Again and again history repeats from sharecroppers to unfair wages and working conditions.
Most of the story is told from Elsa’s point of view, but a few chapters are told from her Loreda, her daughter. The author’s grasp of the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship was profound. I connected to both. Even when there was strife, I never doubted the love they held for each other.
Julia Whelan was the perfect narrator for this novel. She captured all aspects of these characters and through her pacing and tone brought this well-written glimpse of American history and tragedy to life.
I highly recommend listening to The Four Winds. It is a story that will stay with you long after the audio has ended.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: