Neighbors

Fairway readers ponder ‘The Four Winds’

Dust Bowl story has many messages

Posted 1/19/23

When introducing Kristin Hannah’s book, “The Four Winds,” to the Fairway Readers, Jeri Hauff, facilitator, asked whether they had seen Henry Fonda as Tom Joad say, “Whenever people are hungry, I’ll be there.”

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Neighbors

Fairway readers ponder ‘The Four Winds’

Dust Bowl story has many messages

Posted

When introducing Kristin Hannah’s book, “The Four Winds,” to the Fairway Readers, Jeri Hauff, facilitator, asked whether they had seen Henry Fonda as Tom Joad say, “Whenever people are hungry, I’ll be there.”

Even though Fairway reader Tom McGhee said “The Four Winds” had a little too much dust for him, Hauff countered that Hannah told the Dust Bowl-Depression story from a female perspective, and that was the most important aspect. Thirty participants Jan. 13 reckoned both points of view were relevant.

Heroine Elsa Martinelli (1896-1936) was blessed with what Eileen Moore called a child song. A grandfather had inspired Elsa when he told her to be brave, but Elsa’s father found her not pretty when compared to her two sisters. In this, Natalie Hlavna said “The Four Winds” was a Cinderella story with two pretty sisters and that Elsa found love when her first child was born and she survived as a parent in order to manifest that love.

“It’s about both survival and becoming,” Hlavna said.

The child song theme takes hold with Elsa’s firstborn daughter, Loreda, who took the notion of California as the ideal destination from her father, a bit of a dreamer who impregnated Elsa but distances himself from his wife and children, deserts them and is never heard from again. Elsa earns the respect and support of her in-laws, who recognize how deep Elsa’s love is — for family and for the land. 

Land itself becomes a character. Meredith Singer said the story shows what someone goes through to maintain their land.

“We raped the land, and we are still doing it today,” Evelyn Ferrara said.

The notion of government returning resources to the community and supporting the people was widely discussed among the readers. Some, who had lived in countries other than America, saw communist systems as a positive force to unionize workers and to protect people who were earnestly wanting to work.  They wondered that communism in America was just such a flaming word, and many remembered as children having to get under their desks at school, afraid of the Russians despite the alliance in World War II.

Characters in the story illustrated the duality of government workers, according to Tom Haugsby, when the police subdued the workers in their organized protest as contrasted with the agricultural agent (Bennett), who came with offers of help and hope.

“And hope itself is an amazing thing,” said McGhee, who had worked with people with addiction issues. “They come in with no hope at all.”

He then described the sure development of hope as an indicator of wellness.

Elsa’s daughter, Loreda, carried a coin her mom once gave her, a talisman, and she will carry it with her to college, the first Martinelli to go to college. The coin had been given to Rose, Loreda’s grandmother, and it was found on the day Rose and her husband, Tony, were to leave for America. That American penny had two wheat shafts on the back side. Farming in America had been their destiny, and in this, “The Four Winds” is another immigrant story.

When asked by Hauff if they would recommend the book to others, the readers said yes, especially to women.

“This book was a cautionary tale,” said Mary Weber. “People can be pretty damned dumb!”

The next Fairway Readers meeting will be 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10 at Fairway Center, 10600 W. Peoria Ave. The group will discuss “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a banned book. Reading the book is helpful, but not necessary, according to Fairway Readers officials.

The Fairway Readers is a Recreation Centers of Sun City chartered club.

Fairway, Readers, ponder, The Four Winds