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Book Review: Spellbinding escape into another world

A review of Kristin Hannah's The Four Winds
The Four Winds book
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

A trip to another time is perfect for the holidays.

Kristin Hannah is one of my go-tos when it comes to holiday reading. Her books are reliably cozy, filled with strong and inspiring characters, complex enough to stay interesting without being so complicated that you have to be fully focused. The Four Winds certainly fit the usual formula, though the main character exceeded any expectation of a strong lead; the matriarch commanding the story made it a spellbinding tale that kept me riveted from beginning to end.

Strength is not something Elsa Wolcott knows well. Sick with rheumatic fever as a child, and constantly treated as a weakling by her family, Elsa feels resigned to a life of being sheltered, escaping only through books. When a chance encounter with a local boy turns her life upside down, Elsa finds herself in a life she never could have dreamed of. Suddenly she is Elsa Martinelli, farmer’s wife and mother of two, and must find strength overnight. Years later, drought and dust storms launch the American South into the beginnings of what would become the Great Depression, Elsa and her children must seek a new start in California, the “land of milk and honey”. But Elsa’s family isn’t the only one looking for a new life, and California is not what it appears to be. It is Elsa alone who can pull her children through these trying times, making innumerable sacrifices to keep her family safe.

Like Hannah’s other works, this book offered an immediate escape into another world, with the added bonus of historical context: literally transporting readers into another time. I will give a warning that there are some unexpected twists throughout the novel, but this only adds to its magic. A great choice for holiday-readers everywhere!

Ginny Dunnill is a librarian at the Brighouse branch of Richmond Public Library. For more great reads, visit the library’s website at