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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Book Club: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

I am a week late on posting my book club book review. I must admit that I had not finished the book on time to write this post last week.  I got a late start on reading my January pick, The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, because I decided to read another book first.  At the beginning of the month someone recommended that I read In Pursuit of Love by Rebecca Bender.  It is Bender’s real-life story of how she became enslaved into human trafficking and her journey to freedom.  It was an excellent read.  It covered a very tough topic and was truly heartbreaking, but it opened my eyes to the real crime that is happening right here in the US.  Bender’s struggles led to her creating a huge online academy for survivors of human trafficking where she has hundreds of women. So much good has come from her sharing her story and advocating for change.  I highly recommend it! 

My reading of the other book coupled with me struggling at first to get into The Beekeeper of Aleppo put me behind in finishing it.  I don’t know if my struggles to get into the book initially were because my mind was still blown by the other book or what, but I found myself having to reread a lot of pages in the beginning.  Once I got into to the storyline and figured out what was going on and all the characters, I did enjoy this book.  It was a story about a beekeeper (Nuri) and his wife’s (Afra) journey to freedom in the midst of the war in Syria.  After losing their son and the Afra becoming blind, the two made the decision to flee their home in Aleppo for fear of their safety.  They had a long and treacherous journey to the UK where they would meet up with the Nuri’s cousin and business partner who had fled before them. It was a story of loss, heartbreak, survival, and healing.   By her own admission, the author, Christy Lefteri, explored what it means to really see in this book.  This was a journey of sight not just for Afra who had been blinded, but also for Nuri as he learned to cope with so much loss.   

The story flashed between the beginning of their journey and the end of their journey.  It was interesting how the author switched between the present day and the past within one chapter.  I don’t know if there is a technical term for the way she did it or not, so I may butcher trying to explain it.  Each chapter would begin in the present day but would switch to the past halfway through.  I didn’t catch what she was doing at first and was a little confused until I figured it out.  One sentence would begin as the present day, and the last word of that sentence would be cut off.  Then you turn the page to have that last word in a larger font and bold at the top of the page, almost like a title.  That word will have ended the previous sentence of the present day on the previous page, and that same word would be the start of the next sentence into the past.  Here is an example:

“It is”

a key

“was placed in my open palm.”

“It is a key.” was the end of the portion of the chapter about the present day.  “A key was placed in my open palm.” was the beginning of the portion of the chapter about the past.  I hope that makes sense.  When this happened in the first chapter, I thought I was missing pages, or something was wrong with the download of the book.  It took me until about chapter 3 to figure out that this was intentional and what the author was actually doing.  Maybe I am slow and should have caught on instantly, but I didn’t. Once I understood what was going on, the story began to make much more sense, and I began to enjoy it so much more. I would give this book 4 out 5 stars.  I wouldn’t say that I loved it, but I did enjoy reading it.

My pick for February is a much-anticipated book by Kristin Hannah.  I have been a fan of hers for a while and am excited to dive into her newest book, The Four Winds. It is a historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression about a mother trying to protect her family.  Here is what Publisher’s Weekly had to say about this book.

“Hannah brings Dust Bowl migration to life in this riveting story of love, courage, and sacrifice. In 1934 Texas, after four years of drought, the Martinelli farm is no longer thriving, but Elsa is attached to the land and her in-laws, and she works tirelessly and cares for her children, 12-year-old Loreda and seven-year-old Anthony. Her husband, Rafe, has become distant and something of a hard drinker, and after he abandons them, Elsa reluctantly leaves with her children for California with the promise of steady work. Her dreams of a better future are interrupted by the discrimination they face in the unwelcoming town of Welty, where they are forced to live in a migrant camp and work for extremely low wages picking cotton. When Elsa’s meager wages are further reduced and she has the opportunity to join striking workers, she must decide whether to face the dangers of standing up for herself and her fellow workers. Hannah combines gritty realism with emotionally rich characters and lyrical prose that rings brightly and true from the first line (“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love”). In Elsa, a woman who fiercely defends her principles and those she loves, Hannah brilliantly revives the ghost of Tom Joad.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

***This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.