Imagine a time when the land you love is your only source of hope and survival, but drought and merciless dust storms threaten to bury it all. This was the reality of millions of Americans during the Great Depression’s Dust Bowl era, including Elsa Martinelli, the protagonist of Kristin Hannah’s latest novel, The Four Winds.
In this gripping tale of love, heroism, and sacrifice, Elsa must battle between two choices – one is fighting for her land, and the other is willing to seek a better life in California.
Join me on a journey through the pages of this epic novel as I discuss some of the amazing book club questions for The Four Winds while exploring the indomitable spirit of a generation defined by their courage and resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity.
And in case you want to read what the book is about and know my opinion, I have a detailed blog post here – The Four Winds Book Review.
The post might contain affiliate links. For more information, read our disclosure. Also, these questions contain spoilers.
Book Club Questions For The Four Winds
- The novel takes place during a time of great social and environmental upheaval in American history. The 1920s saw a booming economy and a cultural revolution, with many young people embracing new ideas and rejecting traditional values. However, this prosperity was short-lived, and by the 1930s, the country plunged into the Great Depression, which hit rural areas particularly hard.
Does any of the members here know about this particular time period that changes America forever? If yes, feel free to enlighten us.
- The book has been compared to John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath”. This novel is known for its powerful social commentary, its exploration of class conflict and labor issues, and its realistic portrayal of the struggles faced by migrant workers during the Great Depression. “The Four Winds“, on the other hand, is more focused on the personal journey of the protagonist and her family as they try to survive and build a new life during this challenging time.
If you have read or even heard about the former, what’s your take on this?
- The Dust Bowl, a severe drought that lasted for almost a decade, devastated the agriculture industry and forced thousands of families to leave their homes in search of a better life. The book explores the human impact of these events on one family and how they navigate the challenges of poverty, discrimination, and uncertainty in a changing world.
- Elsa is initially portrayed as a passive and submissive character, trapped by her parents’ expectations and society’s narrow definition of womanhood. However, when she becomes a mother, she discovers a strength and resilience that she never knew she had. She is fiercely protective of her children, willing to endure hardship and sacrifice to give them a better life.
A lot of you sitting here are mothers. How has motherhood impacted your life and mental strength? Please discuss.
- Throughout the novel, the characters form strong bonds of community, whether it’s Elsa’s relationship with the Martinellis, her friendship with Jean Dewey, or the larger group of migrants living in the squatters’ camp. These relationships are essential for survival, as they provide emotional support, practical resources, and a sense of belonging in a world that is often hostile and uncertain.
Do you think this community in itself serves as a symbol of hope and resilience amidst the fact of adversity? Also, discuss how it negatively impacts the characters later on, where everyone struggles to reconcile their individual desires and needs based on the situation.
- Elsa and her family face discrimination from their own community when they are ostracized for Elsa’s pregnancy. In California, they encounter racism and prejudice from both the locals and the authorities. The migrants are forced to live in squalid conditions and are denied access to basic services like healthcare and education.
Do you think the book accurately portrays the systemic discrimination faced by marginalized communities and highlights the need for solidarity and collective action to combat injustice?
- Elsa’s decision to join the strike is motivated by her sense of justice and her desire to improve the lives of migrant workers. She sees firsthand the exploitative practices of the company store and the way in which Welty Farms keeps its workers in debt. Her words inspire the workers to continue the fight and to remember the sacrifices made by those who came before them.
After all this, do you really think the character of Elsa deserved such an ending?
- Elsa’s parents represent the traditional American Dream of wealth and status, but their values are revealed to be shallow and superficial. Elsa and Rafe’s dreams of adventure and freedom are undermined by the harsh realities of the Depression and the discrimination they face. The migrant workers embody a different kind of American Dream, one of hard work and community, but even they are thwarted by the systemic injustices they face.
Do you think this is a classic example of the Great American Dream gone wrong?
- Jack is a union organizer who encourages workers to stand up for their rights and join together in solidarity. He believes that collective action is necessary to achieve any real change, and he works tirelessly to organize strikes and protests in support of workers’ rights.
What’s your take on this character of Jack that made many admire him with awe?
- At the beginning, the protagonist is portrayed as a meek and unremarkable young woman, largely defined by her family’s expectations and societal norms. However, her experiences on the farm and in the migrant camps force her to confront her own resilience and resourcefulness. As she faces one challenge after another, Elsa becomes increasingly self-assured and assertive, taking charge of her own destiny and advocating for herself and her family.
Discuss Elsa’s character progression throughout the novel.
- For the Martinellis and other farmers in Texas, the land is their livelihood, and they are devastated by the drought and dust storms that ravage their crops and animals. In California, the land is both a symbol of hope and a source of exploitation, as the migrants are forced to work long hours in the fields for meager wages.
What other symbols and motifs do you think “land” demonstrates in this novel?
- Loreda’s experiences in the migrant camps and on the strike line shape her worldview and inspire her to continue fighting for justice and equality. Her return to Texas to bury her mother represents a connection to the land and the family history, while her departure for college in California embodies the hope for a better future and the possibility of change.
In case there is a sequel to The Four Winds, what changes would you want to see in Loreda’s character and why?
If you liked these set of questions, here are a few other options for you to explore.
Into The Water: In the chilling novel “Into the Water,” Paula Hawkins plunges readers into a river of dark secrets and hidden truths, where a single mother’s death unravels a web of haunting mysteries. Prepare for a gripping journey that exposes the treacherous depths lurking beneath calm waters.
The Night Watchman: Immerse yourself in Louise Erdrich’s powerful novel, “The Night Watchman,” where unforgettable characters on a North Dakota reservation face exploitation, injustice, and the unyielding spirit that defines their fight for freedom and identity.
The Diamond Eye: Embark on a riveting journey through history with “The Diamond Eye.” This unforgettable World War II tale follows Mila Pavlichenko, a bookish student turned lethal sniper, as she battles enemies, finds unexpected friendships, and changes the course of history forever.
Apples Never Fall: From bestselling author Liane Moriarty comes a gripping tale of love, betrayal, and family secrets. When their mother goes missing and their father becomes the prime suspect, the Delaney siblings must confront their own doubts and uncover the truth of her disappearance.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: Step into the dazzling world of aging Hollywood icon, Evelyn Hugo, as she entrusts unknown reporter Monique Grant with the scandalous truth of her life. A tale of ambition, friendship, and forbidden love unfolds, revealing unexpected connections that will leave you breathless.