If you like historical fiction with intriguing , evolving female leads, I’m suggesting a good read: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. St. Martin’s Press, 2021
It’s an authentic, no-holds-barred portrayal of U. S Dust Bowl and Depression years, primarily focusing on the impact on farm families’ and seasonal migrant’s experiences. Fat Cats and government-types profiting from the crisis also have a say.
Though I’ve read quit a bit about the Dust Bowl years, I learned new jaw-dropping details. I suspect due to the author’s extensive research of first-hand account memoirs by farmwomen who had no successful crops, gardens or livestock to tend. Family planning was nil and infant mortality high, so even child--rearing took up less of their time. That crisis gave the women time to write down their hopes, but mostly their angst and constant disillusionment.
The novel dug deep into issues of personal self -esteem within family dysfunction and function. A fine point was put onto societal mores, expectations, biases and prejudices. All those factors ricocheted to stir up the novel’s unfolding drama; a crisis in US History not to be overlooked for lessons.
Female empowerment and self-determination evolve over generations. And most often results from characters groping with struggles inherent with systemic male domination in family, community and government. A mother-daughter relationship key to the plot, both loving and contemptuous, rings especially true as developmental issues erupt.
This isn’t an “escapist” read, but a very meaningful one that foreshadows many contemporary issues, such as: class ,culture, racial and gender inequities, voting rights, unionization, environmental crisis and community contagious illness practices. And, of course, the Dust Bowlregions becoming barren habitat, reminds us that today’s homelessness is nothing new to the U.S.
Most haunting, for me at least, was how the book highlights the historic struggles our population has when it comes to deciding which persons or groups get to define which values, practices and procedures are deemed ‘true-blue American,” and which are decried as traitorously“UN-American.”
While bringing historic family struggles to life, often in infuriating and desperately sad ways, the novel’s recurring theme resonates with me still: “Hard times don’t last, love does. “ That’s worth remembering.
Sidenote: Kristin Hannah has published a mixed bag of novels, around 20 to date. The Four Winds has become a book club favorite. Very worth your time is Hannah’s The Nightingale (St. Martin’s Press, 2015 ) and her The Great Alone (St. Martin’s Press.)