*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Four Winds, I provide your book club with a brief summary, food ideas, and discussion questions in that order!
With The Nightingale, Hannah pivoted from writing women’s fiction to writing more literary or book club fiction. While the three categories are sometimes hard to delineate, Hannah has found major popularity with her latest works all of which contain historical timelines.
Her latest work, The Four Winds, is no different. Inspired by the Dust Bowl and migrants who left the plains for California, The Four Winds is another sweeping historical by Hannah.
If you don’t know, there is some long debated controversy surrounding John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (which Hannah’s The Four Winds echoes). At the time, another writer, a woman named Sanora Babb was researching and writing her own novel about the Dust Bowl and Depression. Steinbeck seems to have come upon her notes and there is claim they largely influenced his novel, which sold truck fulls more than Babb’s.
In a way, the already hugely popular The Four Winds gives Babb some justice. Hannah speaks often of using Babb’s research in her own writing.
I will be honest and say that, while I enjoyed The Four Winds and I definitely think it’s worth a read, I did not like it nearly as much as The Nightingale or The Great Alone. I, personally, had trouble with the ending, which I felt was somewhat forced for effect. (I’d love to know what you felt! Leave a comment below.)
There is also some speculation that the novel is a political statement. If you’ve read it, you know why. I think that wherever you stand on the issues presented in the book, it will foster great conversation.
If you’ve never read The Grapes of Wrath (you should definitely read it), then check out Hannah’s book. It’s a fascinating look at one of the toughest periods in our nation’s history. And, unlike, Steinbeck’s book, the main character is a woman.
On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for The Four Winds, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Check out these fun bookish gadgets…
Here’s a brief summary of The Four Winds:
In 1921 Texas, Elsa Wolcott has been deemed too unattractive and too old to ever married. Discounted by everyone in her life, she’s surprised when Rafe Martinelli takes an interest in her, and, through his affection, she grows brave enough to take charge of her own life. But when her ruined reputation becomes obvious, she’s forced to marry a man she hardly knows.
By 1934, a Great Depression and drought has ravaged the Great Plains. As dust storms relentlessly break down farmers’ resolve, Elsa fights to keep the Martinelli farm from dying. But her tenuous marriage, coupled with the horrifying effects of dust pneumonia, makes each day a tortuous battle. Eventually Elsa must make a choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in hope of a new dream and a better life.
For the The Four Winds Food Ideas:
Despite being a book about the Dust Bowl and Depression, there was plenty of food mentioned throughout the book.
I especially loved reading about all of the dishes that Elsa learned and cooked during her time with the Martinelli’s. It was the happiest time in her life, despite the difficulties, and the Martinelli’s became her true family.
If you are looking for food ideas from The Four Winds, here are a few from the book:
- Chapter 3 – Fourth of July in Dalhart – Wolcott family dishes – Molasses stack cakes, gingerbread, upside-down peach cake, ham with red-eye gravy and grits (Other food at the party includes pork roasts, stews, green beans in bacon fat, chicken salads, potato salads, smoked hams, rabbit sausage, fruit pies, etc.)
- Chapter 5 – Rose Martinelli teaches Elsa to cook – Arancini, fettucine, pancetta, vegetables coated in bread crumbs, cheese and parsley and fried in olive oil
- Chapter 8 – The Pioneer Days in Lonesome Tree – Minestrone soup and cannoli with sweetened ricotta
- Chapter 9 – Meals at the farm – panelle with lemon drops and arancini in pancetta and garlic tomato sauce
- Chapter 12 – The first spring rain and Loreda’s birthday are celebrated – fettucine with browned pancetta and a creamy sauce and a ricotta cassata (cake) covered in preserved peaches
- Chapter 21 – Elsa attends the PTA meeting – Sugar dusted cookies and peanut-butter and pickle sandwiches
- Chapter 22 – Jean and Elsa share recipes and the kids adjust to camp food – hush puppies, polenta cakes with soup, casseroles of tomato soup, macaroni, and sliced hot dogs, pork and beans with corn syrup, chipped beef on toast, hot dogs, saltine cracks fried in oil and dusted with sugar
- Chapter 27 – Jack takes Elsa and her kids to the WPA lakes – Coca-Colas and tamales filled with beans, cheese, pork, and a spicy sauce
While I no longer create a recipe for every book featured on Book Club Bites, I did create one for The Four Winds.
I was lucky enough to visit Italy a few years ago and, during my time there, I tried Arancini. If you don’t know, it’s a delicious, appetizer-like dish made with risotto and mozzarella that is really unique.
I think your book club would be grateful to try any of the Italian recipes mentioned in the book, but if you are looking for an arancini recipe, I’ve created one just for you!
For the complete Arancini with Garlic and Pancetta Sauce recipe, click HERE!
The Four Winds Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- The novel is broken into three parts in a way. Which part did you most relate to—Elsa struggling to find her voice and place in the world, Elsa holding on to a dying dream, or Elsa striving to make a way despite the odds? Why?
- What did you know about the Dust Bowl and the mass migrations to California during the 1930s before reading? Which part of the Dust Bowl was most difficult for you to read about? What about the Martinelli’s life in California?
- Were you surprised by Rafe’s actions? Why or why not? What would you have done in if you were in Elsa’s shoes?
- Loreda is a brave and interesting young woman. Even though her father leaves her, she doesn’t feel unlovable in the same way Elsa does. Even though Loreda faces persecution in California, she chooses to fight and not play it safe as Elsa wants. Compare and contrast mother and daughter. Why are they so different? How are they the same?
- Discuss all of the secondary characters in this book from the Martinellis and Elsa’s family to Mr. Welty and Jean. Who was your favorite and who was your least favorite?
- Even though there were many hardships for the characters, there were also good scenes. Discuss your favorite scene from the book. Did you think Ant was a shining light? Who else brightened the tough scenes?
- It’s hard to read this book and not relate it to many things we are still facing today including immigrant and fair wage policies. How have things changed for the better since the 1930s? In what ways did this open your eyes to the situation many still face today? Was the book able to cultivate empathy in you or did you find it too political?
- Why do you think Elsa finally stood up for herself? Was it Jack’s influence or Loreda’s? Do you think she did it for them? Or do you think she finally found her voice?
- What did you think of the ending? How might it have been better/worse if Jack had been dealt Elsa’s fate instead?
- Do you have any personal stories from that era (or passed down stories) that you would like to share (specifically the Dust Bowl and the migration to California)? Let members to share as time allows.
- How did this compare to other Kristin Hannah books you’ve read? What did you think was better or worse in The Four Winds?
Have you read The Four Winds? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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