In one word: Dogged
This was precisely the book I needed to read while in the clutches of a chilly and downright RUDE Midwestern spring. Spring is my least favorite of the seasons, and this year it’s earning its rank at the bottom of the list. It is April, and it is STILL cold, and I STILL have to wear a jacket, and I STILL can’t lounge in my hammock, but, real talk, these are only inconveniences. The weather isn’t to my liking?! Oh heavens, noooooo. It’s not hard like, say, living during the Great Depression AND the Dust Bowl AND having a lackluster marriage AND having to make a new life for my children, so my youngest doesn’t die because of the dusty unforgiving land, which has robbed my family of my livelihood, and my home.
Enter Hannah’s “Four Winds,” the perfect lengthy tome of unrelenting schadenfreude for what ails you. Did you like “Grapes of Wrath” but wonder where the ladies were at? Look no further than this book, where we follow Elsa, the ugly duckling of her family (weak heart + tall + unattractive in a vague way that isn’t explained = social shut-in) through her life of bad choices, hard times, dogged determination, and unfulfilled expectations.
I previously read Hannah’s “The Great Alone,” another tale of women in bleak conditions, but the protagonist in that novel is stuck in the Alaskan wilderness with only her tenacity to guide her out of hardship and a dire family situation. That one I ate up, cover-to-cover. Conversely, I feel like this book ate ME up instead because Elsa was a hangdog character who could not catch a break. And maybe that was the point? I mean, it was called the Great Depression, not the Moderate Depression, so it was a dire time, and we were following a cheerless character. That said, I don’t feel like we needed Elsa’s self-worth to be in the sub-basement level of her psyche to get the point across. I had a tough time with this book because she was tough to root for when she couldn’t even root for herself. I still have Hannah’s “The Nightingale” to read, so I’ll consider it my tiebreaker where my opinion of the author is concerned.