I have decided that Kristin Hannah is one of my very favorite authors. Her books call to my interests, history, romance, drama and family, I have read The Great Alone, The Nightingale, Night Road, this one, The Four Winds and I have watched the series made out of Firefly Lane. There are so many more to read and I look forward to each one.
This book starts in the early 1920’s in Texas. In the beginning of the book the farmers in Texas had great crop weather year after year and the wealth and abundance was high. Then the 1930’s came along and rain dried up everything and the dust storms started. They were not able to grow anything, the water dried up, the animals were dying from lack of food and water. The dust storms would just blow in sometimes for days. People would become ill from ingesting the dust into their lungs and stomach.
This was the time of Franklin Deleno Roosevelt and the New Deal but the dust bowl was slow to get recognition to get help. Finally, when a government official from the Conservation Corp. who had been touring the Great Plains, spoke with the farmers he met with resistance. Farmers are very proud and do not want to receive assistance from the government. Also what they were told was that they were part of the reason that caused the dust bowl. That did not go over well, of course. By getting rid of the natural prairie grasses and turning the land into farmland then essentially nothing growing on it the dry topsoil would blow and blow. I remember from my reading of Laura Ingalls Wilder this was mentioned when they lived in Kansas and farming was so hard much earlier. The government wanted the farmers to turn their land back into prairie grasses again and the farmers would be subsidized for this. It was slow to catch on and people started to move to the west coast like California and Oregon with the promise of jobs.
The 25 year old female character in the beginning of the book was named Elsa. Her family was very wealthy and contributed much to the community. Elsa had been unwell when she was young, and the family treated her as if she was still sick and really didn’t think or let her be part of the family. She wasn’t listened to, wasn’t asked to be part of the fun of the family. She spent much time in her room, read a lot and did needlework. She was also made to feel she was ugly and no one would want to be married to her. One day she went to the store and found some red material. She decided to make a dress out of it and went out on the town. She met a young handsome man and one thing led to another and she became pregnant. The family found out who the young man was, took her to their house and dumped her off because she has shamed her family. This is really when Elsa’s life became interesting, and this family became everything to her.
She came to love the farm, learned things, worked hard, wanted to be a good wife and fell in love with her in-laws. She ended up having a little girl, then a boy and another child that passed away. Her husband couldn’t stand the sadness of the dust bowl and left the family, and they were of course, devastated.
Eventually Elsa had to make her way away from the prairie and took her two children to California. To drive hundreds of miles with so many others, across the desert to find a better life. Of course, it is never as good as they think it is going to be but Elsa and the kids learn and become strong and meet others who are in the same boat. These people who once had been wealthy but lost everything. I will leave it here, pick up this book, it is very good to find out how Elsa and her family survive.