Book Review: The Four Winds

By Kristin Hannah

My mom is here visiting. Before she made the trip over I asked her to bring me a book, any book, as I know she reads loads and has been in a book club for a million years. She brought The Four Winds. I happened to be using some local flora from the beach as a book mark this summer that looks a lot like the stalks of wheat on the front cover, so I took that as a good sign.

From the back cover: (Actually, the inside of the cover flap jacket or whatever it’s called on these fancy hardcover books): The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it – the harsh realities that divided a nation and the enduring battle between the halves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

What a complete load of schmaltzy faff that is. Can you see the team of copy writers around the table coming up with that crap? And that’s just the last of three or four paragraphs! “Stunningly brings to life…”, really? “An indelible portrait of America…” because creating and promoting this kind of “made for T. V.” tick the appropriate emotion boxes PRODUCT is so much of what America is about. The excessive, contrived sentimentality of this book had me imagining it in my mind NOT as a realistic portrayal of one family’s struggles during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression years, but as a Disney movie. Once I came at the story with the understanding that I was reading a Disney movie, I was able to get through it. Disney should make this book into a movie. It is tailor made for Disney.

I’ve just done a bit of research, and it seems this authors previous book has been made into to a movie… So there you go. But even still, I’ve read a lot of Stephen King and John LeCarré books that have been made into movies, and they were no where near so obviously contrived for a movie adaptation as this book is.

Anyway, it’s about 450 pages, a long story about this woman named Elsa, a reluctant heroine and dedicated mother who goes through hell and high-water for her children. Though it is was obviously and annoyingly contrived sentimentality, I’m a sentimental soul and as my mom had given me the book, I couldn’t help but think of my mom and her love and dedication to her children. There is no love like a mother’s love. I cried at the end.

So, thanks for the book mom. I’m glad we don’t have to escape the Dust Bowl and live in poverty as migrant “okies” in Hoovervilles in California, living day to day, hand to mouth, but we have had our own struggles and obstacles and dreams and hopes in our family, and your love, strength, courage, wisdom and guidance have gotten us through and raised us up. I’m so proud of you and proud to be your son. Thanks.

The whole story is in this woman’s eyes. You don’t need to read the book, just look at this picture. If you really want to know what happens in The Four Winds, just wait for the Disney movie.

Dorothea Lange’s famous photograph
From the backseat of a Ford

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