When we are feeling down, we are sometimes told that we are stronger than we think we are. As cliché as it sounds, it is also the truth.
Kristin Hannah’s new book, The Four Winds was published last month. The story starts in Texas in 1921. Elsinore “Elsa” Wolcott has three strikes against her. Strike one is that she is unmarried at the age of twenty five with no prospects in sight. Strike two is that she is perceived to be plain looking. Strike three is that her parents are convinced that her former childhood illness is still within her. They keep her tethered to the family, fearing that it will reappear.
One night, Elsa takes a chance and goes out. She meets Rafe Martinelli, the son of Italian immigrants. After a few interactions, Elsa becomes pregnant. She has no choice but to marry him. The book then flashes ahead to 1934. Between the Great Depression and the dust bowl, the Martinellis, like every other farming family in that part of the country, are dealing with hard times. On top of the external pressures, Elsa’s marriage is on shaky ground.
With so many of their neighbors moving to California for new opportunities, Elsa is eventually forced to decide where her future and the future of her children lie. Do they stay in Texas and survive as best they can, or take a chance and travel to the coast?
I know that is only March, but if I was to create a list of the best books of 2021, The Four Winds would easily be in the top five. The first line is delicious and perfect. Elsa is akin to a Cinderella type character who rescues herself. Though it would have been easy for her to sink into complacency and accept her fate, she chose to fight it. I also appreciated the relationship with her preteen daughter, Loreda. It was a natural addition to the conflict without feeling forced into the narrative.
Teenage love is supposed to be romantic, sweet and all together wonderful. But what happens when the real world sets in?
In Kristin Hannah’s 1996 novel, Home Again, Angel DeMarco appears to be on top of the world. A Hollywood superstar, Angel lives what can only be described as a very Hollywood life. Then reality crashes in with a heart condition that could kill him.
Madelaine Hillyard is assigned to be his cardiologist. Madelaine is a superstar in her field, but find it’s difficult to balance a hectic work schedule with raising her rebellious teenage daughter, Lina, as a single parent. Lina is desperate to find out who her father is and makes no bones about it.
Once upon a time, Angel and Madelaine were inseparable. When they are brought together again, they face a tough choice. Can they heal the wounds of the past and their broken hearts (physically and metaphorically) to live as had wished at one time?
Though the book is a little slower narrative wise than the other novels of Ms. Hannah that I have read, I absolutely loved it. The conflict and the drama was just enough to hook me without being either too over the top or too predictable.
My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher: When Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds departed this world two years ago, no one knew them better than their brother and son. The book is a love letter to them by one of the people who knew and loved them best.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: A young girl growing up in the wilds of Alaska learns some hard truths about life, love and marriage.
Growing up is never easy. Especially when the relationship between one’s parents is tumultuous and your growing up at the end of the world.
In Kristin Hannah’s new novel, The Great Alone, Leni Allbright is a young lady growing up in the 1970’s. Her father, Ernt, survived The Vietnam War, but came home a changed man. Her mother, Cora, loves her husband passionately and will follow him to the ends of the Earth. The ends of the Earth is a small town at the edge of the Alaska wilderness. In the beginning, their new home is nirvana. It is a chance for the family to start over. But the past is never far behind and as winter approaches, Cora and Leni must face the truth about Ernt.
The only thing I can say about this book is wow. Kristin Hannah has done it again. The narrative was tense, dramatic and I was on the edge of my seat until the final page.
It can be said, that it is the darkest times in our lives that will often force us to do things that we may never have previously considered doing.
Earlier this year, best selling author Kristin Hannah published The Nightingale. The novel starts in France in 1939. Vianne and Isabelle are sisters, but they are different as night and day. Vianne, the elder by ten years, is the practical, reliable sister. Married with a young daughter, she is content to live as she is. Isabelle, at eighteen, is hotheaded and often thinks before she speaks.
When war breaks out and the Nazis invade France, Vianne watches her husband join the other men to fight for their country. But the French are no match for the Germans and Vianne, like many women, is forced to house a German soldier. Isabelle falls in love with a man who will ultimately betray her. Both Isabelle and Vianne will join the fight against the Germans as they both can, risking their lives and the lives of the ones they love.
This book is nothing short of amazing. I could not put it down. The details are tangible. The story is compelling. The relationship between the sisters is vivid.
It is so far, one of the best books that I have read this year.
Words, words, words... well said Hamlet! A little blog to go off on tangents within the worlds of history and literature that interest me. From the Tudors to Tom Hardy's Tess, or from the Wars of the Roses to Wuthering Heights, feel free to browse through my musings to pick up extra ideas and points for discussion!