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The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Historical fiction

The Four Winds

Book of the year

Each year thousands of members vote for our Book of the Year award—congrats to The Four Winds!

Repeat author

Kristin Hannah is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include The Great Alone and The Nightingale and The Women.

by Kristin Hannah

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Quick take

From the Texas plains to the California coast, this Depression-era tale follows a family striving for a better life.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Rugged


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MarriageIssues

    Marriage issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest



Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Four Winds.
The Four Winds


Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when it felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.

I came west in search of a better life, but my American dream was turned into a nightmare by poverty and hardship and greed. These past few years have been a time of things lost: Jobs. Homes. Food.

The land we loved turned on us, broke us all, even the stubborn old men who used to talk about the weather and congratulate each other on the season’s bumper wheat crop. A man’s got to fight out here to make a living, they’d say to each other.

A man.

It was always about the men. They seemed to think it meant nothing to cook and clean and bear children and tend gardens. But we women of the Great Plains worked from sunup to sundown, too, toiled on wheat farms until we were as dry and baked as the land we loved. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I swear I can still taste the dust...

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Why I love it

You will not be able to put The Four Winds down. Literally. I’m a working mom with three young kids, and I read this 450-page book in 36 hours. The characters are unforgettable, the storytelling is captivating, and the parallels to life right now are notable. It is Kristin Hannah at her absolute best.

The Four Winds takes readers to the Dust Bowl, where Elsa Martinelli lives with her in-laws, drunk husband, and two young children. Struggling to survive in every way—physically, mentally, and emotionally—Elsa must make hard choices for the sake and well-being of her children. Should her family stay and try to survive the drought or head west to California, where word of work, sun, and prosperity seem like the Promiseland? Spanning two decades, The Four Winds is a portrait of the grit, courage and sacrifices made by ordinary people trying to achieve the American Dream.

The Four Winds speaks to our deepest desires—to be loved and wanted, to be understood, and to make a difference. I found myself drawn to the gamut of emotions the characters experienced and was moved to tears at multiple points. As in The Great Alone, the land is like an extra character in the book, adding depth and complexity to the story. Kristin Hannah clearly did her research, making this the kind of historical fiction you want to press into the hands of all your friends. It is a masterpiece, and I’m already certain it will be one of my top books of 2021.

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Member ratings (68,583)

  • Carole O.

    Gladstone , MI

    I loved this book, it took you back and gave you an idea of the tragedies of the dust bowl. It, also, made you realize that maybe the pandemic wasn’t that bad as long as you kept your cool. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Robin H.

    Severna Park, MD

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️This story about Texas during the 1930’s Dust Bowl was so much more than a historical book. The characters were so strong and yet so vulnerable.I ached for them. So much strife & resilience.

  • Carey O.

    Medina, OH

    One of the most heartbreaking, depressing and saddest books I’ve ever read. It was so beautifully written and I felt all of the anguish and despair that Elsa felt. She was a true warrior ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Eleanor N.

    Burlington, NJ

    I loved this book. I will not soon forget Elsa and her family. I thought that her coupling with her future husband and the rush to unload her by her family was a little unbelievable; however, the rest was heartwrenching

  • Lindsay Z.

    Olympia, WA

    For the first 100 pages, I was mystified how this book was ‘Book of the Year.’ That changed suddenly and I found myself racing through the remaining chapters and sobbing when it ended. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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