The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Although she’s been told she’s worth nothing her whole life, Elsa still dreams of a world in which she might accomplish something worthwhile. Being 25 and unmarried in the early 1930’s is a pretty clear indication that chances are slim that you will be leaving your family home at all. No, you’ll likely be under the thumb of your overbearing, critical mother and father your whole life. Unless you take action. Unless you do something drastic – like maybe buy that bolt of bold, red silk and sew yourself that beautiful, lavish dress and just sneak out for that night on the town and pretend you’re like everyone else– to hell with what they say. Be brave, her doting grandfather used to say to her. Well, she just might. Little does Elsa know that being brave will have to carry her through all of what comes thereafter, as she takes each next step, wanted or not.

In The Four Winds, Kristin Hannah has written what will inevitably come to be known as a great American novel, a sort of Grapes of Wrath narrated through the voice of a woman. We are lured inside the head and the heart of our heroine, Elsa, a modest, resourceful, and hard-working woman, bitterly rejected by her own family. She easily earns our sympathy, as she gradually gains her own strength, visualizing her own purpose. We feel love when she is finally loved and we shed tears when she is hurt, and we applaud her as she overcomes one arduous obstacle after another.

This is also a story of a dark era in our history. The Dust Bowl crisis during the Great Depression was a tragic consequence of the prolonged drought that occurred during the 1930’s, and layered onto the economic crisis of the Depression, it could not have come at a worse time. Scorched farmlands bankrupted thousands, and, lured by advertisements for jobs, too many fled west and found only steeper poverty and absent resources. The narrative starkly highlights the failure of our country to adequately provide for those who were left with nothing.  This left those who were more fortunate, empowered by their vigilante groups, to demonstrate only anger and hatred toward these folks who were starving for work, starving to have the opportunity to help themselves. 

I love that the women here are strong characters. Elsa grows into a strong character as she comes to know herself. Her daughter, Loreda, is born strong – rebellious, with a righteous anger that is sometimes misdirected but always idealistic. And there is Elsa’s mother-in-law, Rose, with her quieter strength – a woman who is fiercely loyal, uncomplaining, and who has the softest heart and is present when it matters. These are beautiful characters who will likely stay with you long after you finish turning the pages of this novel.

This story will singe a hole in your heart, but it will also fill it with admiration for the souls who fought for others, to raise up the unfortunate. It also reminds us how frequently history does repeat itself and how important it is to learn from the past.

A definite MUST READ – and a future classic.


Home Again by Kristin Hannah

Home Again: A Novel - Kindle edition by Hannah, Kristin. Literature &  Fiction Kindle eBooks @

Angel DeMarco has been living in the fast lane for so long now, that he cannot even catch up with himself.  Famous for his blue-eyed, teen fan-wilting smile, and his roles in smash-hit action films, he has amassed the fortune to finance the most impulsive drug and sex sprees imaginable.  And yet – he still finds himself as lonely as ever.  When he is suddenly faced with a health crisis, all of this comes rushing in to challenge his very ability to face his past in order to make possible a future.  

Meanwhile, Madelaine, back home in Seattle, has become a successful cardiologist, working with a transplant team that is renowned for its success.  While she is top of her game professionally, she is struggling personally.  Her role as a single mom has become more and more challenging as her teenaged daughter, Lina, has begun to challenge everything about their relationship.  Trying so hard to protect Lina, Madelaine hides truths from her daughter.  But will this be sustainable?  And who is this really protecting?   

It is so disappointing when a book starts out well but then is heartbreakingly dull and predictable, right? Hannah had a great premise for this book: lovely characters, an interesting plot idea, and a challenging ethical dilemma.  Sadly, this great idea was muddled by repeatedly, prolonged character musings over past failings intertwined with drawn-out, ruminative thoughts.  The characters were flat — too pretty and stereotypical, with little depth.  And the plot was so devoid of surprise or twist that I felt I was reading the story just to prove there was no surprise or twist to be found.  

Is it the writer’s oversight?  The editor’s?  I wonder.  

In any case, there is too little time and too many books to read, so don’t spend our precious gift of literature on this one. 




Angel Falls by Kristin Hannah


It is clear that Kristin Hannah’s writing blossomed dramatically between writing this novel and writing her master work The Nightingale.  I was hoping to be drawn into similarly beautifully drawn scenes with intricate plot lines as I was in that great novel – and I was sorely disappointed here.  While there started to be an intriguing idea for the story, and it began well enough, it just was not developed with the same sophistication and elegance as that later work.

This story begins with young Bret preparing the saddle early in the morning for his mom, Mikaela, to have her early morning horseback ride.  Suddenly, something was noticeably off and Bret watched as his mom started jumped the horse and the horse stopped and Mikaela was thrown forward, banging her head against a pole, sustaining a severe head injury.   The next thing they all knew, their lives were thrown upside-down, as Mikaela was in a deep coma and it was unclear if she’d ever recover.  What comes after tests the love each of the family members has for each other.

There are some truly brilliant moments in this story and the basic plot is a clever one.  The test of love that Mikaela’s husband, Liam, faces is a fascinating ethical dilemma that I think many would find paralyzingly difficult.  And there are tender scenes between the various family members that are quite sweet.

However, the writing itself is somewhat simplistic.  The plot could be more involved, with more story lines woven into the main one.  The characters could be much more multi-dimensional – they are extremely flat – and, wow, is the latter half of the story just pure saccharine-sweetness!  It felt as if the author herself got bored with the book about halfway through and just wanted to be over and done with the project, so she wrote whatever came out easily.  It was quite anti-climactic.

So, stick with The Nightingale, and forget about this one, I’d say…

Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah


After 24 years of marriage, Elizabeth has finally come to terms with the fact that her husband, Jack, and her 2 daughters have all taken center stage in her life, leaving her to cast aside her own dreams and aspirations.  When Jack was a famous football star, she cared for her young daughters mostly by herself.  When Jack later became a smaller time sports caster, moving from town to town where opportunities arose, she duly followed. But now that the girls are both out of the house, she realizes that it is time for her to attend to herself – she just has to figure out whether that plan will include Jack or not…

This is a story that will, sadly, strike a familiar chord with many readers, I believe.  When the nest empties, it is often a challenge for couples to fill the void – or it is the time when the void has to finally be acknowledged.  Hannah describes this conflict with sensitivity, honesty and warmth, presenting both Elizabeth’s and Jack’s sides to a complicated story.

I think it was not good that I knew before reading this book that the author had written The Nightingale.  That book was so outstanding that I had elevated expectations for this one.  For example, some subplots were hinted at but then left undone.  One character, Kim, who Elizabeth met in a support group, was a mysterious, moodier member of the group.  It appeared that she was going to be more of a presence in the book (and it was an interesting possibility), but she was just sort of abandoned in a more underdeveloped state.

I would still recommend this book – it was a nice read – but manage your expectations if you’ve read The Nightingale!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (migrated from bookblogger)

This is a MUST-read!

Vianne and Isabelle, sisters living in France during the late 1930’s, could not be more different from each other.  Vianne is calm, very settled and contented;  while Isabelle is impulsive, daring and always desperately seeking attention and love.  Both, however, had their lives completely disrupted by the German invasion into France during the advent of the second world war.  And both resisted the Germans each in her own very brave way.  Through their miserable experiences during the war, they each came to understand each other and respect each other for who they really were and who they each became.

This book, while extremely emotionally difficult to read, was outstanding.  The writing was clear and fluid and just explicit enough to get the sordid details across.  The characters are beautifully drawn; both sisters became real people for whom I felt a powerful empathy.  It also was descriptive but still kept the action moving so that there was never a lull, never a single sentence I wanted to skim over.  It is a story that keeps your heart beating at high speed until the very last page.

Once again – a MUST-READ!