Kristin Hannah pulls off a fantastic switch right at the start of this wonderful story. At first, we feel sorry for her heroine, Elsa. Elsa is exceptionally tall, taller than her petite younger sisters. She is, by the age of 25, considered by her scornful family to be ‘on the shelf’. What man in her 1920s America small-town world would want such a ‘poor thing… skinny as a rake handle… not nearly as pretty as her sisters.’
But Elsa kicks back. She experiments with makeup. She wears fashionable clothes. She goes out alone to jazz clubs.
She gets pregnant.
Elsa keeps her baby and marries the father. It’s the best thing that could have happened to her. It releases her from her suffocating, oppressive life in her parents’ home, where she’s not much more than a servant, and out onto the Great Plains to live and work on her new in-laws’ sprawling wheat farm.
But after early happy years of bumper harvests with the dollars rolling in, the depression sideswipes everyone. A relentless drought simultaneously grips the land. Baking-hot summers – so hot, birds drop stone-dead from the skies and trees shrivel at the roots – follow one after the other.
Elsa’s husband abandons her, and she must make a decision. Stay, and endure the drought? Or leave the land, take her two children, and trek west to California, the land of milk and honey?
This book has, at its heart, a great adventure. You’ll be gripped. We were.