Book Club: Four Winds

It is my favorite day of the month! It’s the day I get to tell you about the book I just read and reveal what my next pick is.  For February I chose Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.  I am a big fan of Hannah and haven’t read one of her books that I didn’t like.  This time was no exception.  In fact, I didn’t just like this book; I loved it.   It was one of those books that you get so invested in that you don’t want to put it down, and you don’t want it to end. This story was definitely a 5 out of 5 for me.  It had all the elements that I love in a story.  It was a little bit of historical fiction (my favorite genre) with excellent character development, and it had a strong female lead.  I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book.  

This story begins and ends with Elsa.  Her beginning was very isolated.  She was the daughter of a prominent family in northwest Texas who treated her with kid gloves due to an illness when she was young.  She was made to feel worthless and unloved.  She was repeatedly told that she was unattractive and too weak to find a mate.  She was left alone in her room with only books to fulfill the void left by her family.  Inspired by the heroine of one of her novels, Elsa went out on the town one night in a handmade red dress.  That one unexpected night left her in the arms of a young man named Rafe, the only person who had ever paid her attention or made her feel any kind of human connection. After a few more secretive meetings with this young man, Elsa wound up pregnant and alone.  She was instantly disowned by her family and left on the doorstep Rafe’s family’s farm.  

As Elsa struggled to find her place in her new home, her affection grew for her new family and the land that they so dearly loved. Following the birth of her daughter, Loreda, Elsa realized that she had finally found the family she had always longed for.  The land became a part of her soul.  She took her place working hard on the farm and filling her duties as a wife and mother.  Eventually, her son, Anthony, was born.  She was living the life that she had never dreamed possible until the family found themselves in the midst of the Great Depression and the devastating drought that swept across the mid-west leaving the land decimated.  Each day was a struggle for survival.  After years of barely getting by, Rafe left the family in the middle of the night in search of something more fulfilling and was never to be seen or heard from again.  Devastated by his departure, Elsa was determined to stay on the farm and protect her children, Rafe’s parents, and the family farm. 

It wasn’t until the dry, dusty land almost killed her son, that Elsa realized that the farm was no longer a safe place to be.  She packed her two kids and as many belongings as could fit in their truck and made the long, harrowing trip to California, which promised work and a better life.  It wasn’t long after arriving in California that they realized that promise was a lie.  They were left living in a tent in a field with all three begging for work every single day.  The work they did find was back-breaking work with so little pay that they barely could afford to eat.  This journey left them broken and in a fight for fair pay and better working conditions that would forever change the course of their lives. 

Not only was this a story of survival, but it was also a story of finding strength in the most unexpected ways and places.  Elsa learned to fight for what she believed in, and she found her voice when she had none before.  She used that voice to survive and took a stand for what she believed was right.  This was also a coming-of-age story that explored the mother-daughter relationship and the journey of finding one’s worth.  I thought that the character development was excellent, and I could feel the agony they felt struggling to survive on barely any food and in the harshest of conditions. Hannah really brought the story to life and made you believe you were right there in the trenches with each person.  I found myself rooting for them and at the same time feeling the devastation when they struggled.  This story was exceptionally written, and I highly recommend it. It was such a good read, and I was so sad when it ended.  

I can only hope that my next pick will be as exceptional as the last.  For March, I have chosen another instant New York Times Bestseller and historical fiction novel entitled The Book of Names by Kristin Harmel.  This story is set in the midst of World War II.  It revolves around a woman named Eva who is taken back in time after coming across a photo of a book in a magazine to a time when she helped Jewish children fleeing to Switzerland.  Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about this novel.

“Harmel (The Winemaker’s Wife) brilliantly imagines the life of a young Polish-French Jewish woman during the depths of WWII. IN 2005, Eva Traube, 86, lives in Winter Park, Fla., and works at the library where she reads a newspaper story about a man in Germany returning rare books looted by the Nazis to WWII survivors. The story includes a photo of a book that once belonged to her, prompting her to leave immediately for Berlin. Harmel then transitions back to 1940s France, when 23-year-old Eva and her mother escape the roundups in Paris and end up in the tiny town of Aurignon. Eva meets document forger Remy Duchamp, who draws her into the Resistance; Remy trains Eva, and the two inevitably grow closer as they work to provide papers for those fleeing the Nazi regime. Eva and Remy devise a method of recording the names of unaccompanied escaping children, coding each name in an old library book, which Eva saw in the newspaper story. Now in Berlin, Eva hopes to recover and decode the names, and learn the fate of Remy. Harmel movingly illustrates Eva’s courage to risk her own life for others, and all of the characters are portrayed with realistic compassion. This thoughtful work will touch readers with its testament to endurance of hope.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

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