The Four Winds

Macmillan Audio. Feb. 2021. 464p. 15:02 hrs. ISBN 9781250317254. $44.99. F
The first time Elsa Wolcott Martinelli shows her mettle in desperate circumstances is in 1921, when she is disowned by her wealthy family for thwarting their intentions for her lifelong spinsterhood. By the 1930s, Elsa embraces her life as indefatigable farm wife; bolstered by her immigrant in-laws’ affection, she becomes a partner in their effort to keep their Texas Panhandle farm. Driven by combined Dust Bowl scourges—economic depression, drought, and siege-like windstorms—to rescue her children from dust pneumonia and starvation, Elsa flees with them to California. There, amid fierce competition for fruit- and cotton-picking jobs, a new, more insidious peril awaits: now re-cast as migrants and “Okies,” they and thousands of other displaced persons represent fair game for employers, officials, and resentful residents to cheat and exploit as disposable labor commodities. Narrator Julia Whelan convincingly portrays Elsa’s coming of age from sheltered recluse to workers’ rights champion. Indelible Dust Bowl horrors (centipedes streaming from walls, cotton pickers surveilled by gun towers) are appropriately pitched, so readers experience rather than simply hear them.
VERDICT With poignant prose documenting historical scenarios but also invoking currently resonant issues--environmental responsibility, immigration and displacement, workers’ and women’s rights, social ills laid bare by calamity--Hannah’s (The Great Alone) absorbing tale will enthrall a wide swath of readers.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing