Labor is hot. Look for Union Tags on one of the best-selling novels pages these days. Then you may find it.
Last fall, Jess Walter published an excellent article, The Cold Millions, about union organizers in Spokane, Washington, in the early 1900s. The Washington Post listed it as one of the top 10 in 2020.
And now, mega-salesman Christine Hannah is coming in The Four Winds, an emotional novel about efforts to organize migrant workers in California during the Great Depression.
It is true that literary fiction is not the surest indicator of American cultural attitude. But as income inequality continues to decline as union members plummet, Walter and Hannah are leading readers into an era of desperate workers gathering to fight for income, honor and their lives. ..
The Four Winds begins in 1921 in northwest Texas. ElsaWolcott is the eldest daughter of a middle-class family who treats her like an ugly relic. Her unloving parents left Elsa trapped in a book in her room, claiming she was too weak to tolerate social interactions.
Desperately unmarried at the age of 25! -He always remembers that a reputable person doesn’t want an unattractive wife.
But Elsa is a piece of yellow wallpaper away from her nerve weakness. Your mind is the beating muscle of unfulfilled longing and unfulfilled ambition. Like Jane Eyre, she smokes from the irritation of a passionate woman who has long been rejected and oppressed.
If he didn’t do something dramatic right away, his future would be no different from his present, Hannah wrote. She will stay in this house for her lifetime, with her novel as her only friend.
Inspired by Fanny Hill’s scandalous story, Elsa sew a red dress that reveals her knees and storm for a romantic adventure night. She can get what she wants for at least a few seconds, but the novel finds that her understanding of how sex actually works is very limited.
This great storm of sighs and shame is just an introduction designed to turn Elsa from her imprisoned virgin to her exiled mother. Driven by the range of her bedroom and the nervous control of her parents, she appears as a classic Hannah heroine ready for a tragic adventure.
When The Four Winds resumes in 1934, we fall into the Great Depression and Hannah unfolds her story under a cloudless sky. Bad weather, bad agriculture, and bad government plots gradually deplete the entire region and ruin farms one after another.
Evaporation of water, wilting of seedlings, boredom of unemployment-although it is not easy to dramatically describe such disasters, Hannah radiates heat from these pages as the drought progresses.
And from pure physical horror, she swirls apocalyptic sandstorms, days of harsh assertive trials, changing landscapes, filling homes, and filling lungs. Faced with the potential for her hunger, Elsa must decide whether to stay on her own land or go to California. California is a work-rich milk and honey oasis.
Obviously, Hannah was reading Grape of Anger while Elsa was reading her Sensitivity and Sensitivity . She keeps reminding people that Elsa is Texan, not Orkie, but her Steinbeck classic echoes are sometimes so strong that she sees Jord’s Hudson Super Six on the road. I thought. Like Tom and his family, Elsa discovers that the paradise she wanted to find isn’t. California is overwhelmed by the poor who crave for work and food.
Without safety rules, labor regulations, or the minimum wage (all the nasty burdens Republicans are still dissatisfied with), huge farm owners are cruelly free to their workers as they wish. Can be handled. The country is fascinated by the harmful lies that providing government assistance will undermine workers’ initiatives.
Of course, when The Grapes of Wrath appeared in 1939, much of America was paralyzed by the poverty that Steinbeck reported in San Francisco news. A few months later, when Congress began hearings on farm wages and regulations, he felt that his novel was catastrophically up-to-date.
Hannah’s negotiations with this 80-year-old material during a pandemic affecting our economy are inevitably more complex. She uses it to reflect the current tragedy of alien exclusion and economic exploitation that is sweeping America, examining traumatic times in American history.
Then, as it is now, the demagogy shouts about the dangers of socialism, ignoring the damage to life and the crushed spirit. In a tragic and modern-sounding line, Hannah describes a 1930s citizen who crouched in fear and resentment, mixing poverty and immorality.
They said schools and hospitals were invaded and couldn’t stand the demands of many outsiders. They went bankrupt and lived because of a wave of crime and illness blaming immigrants. I was worried about my loss and anxiety.
Like Steinbeck, Hannah tends to be an economic and political force that kills these workers. This is America, a young woman tells Elsa. Why is this happening to us? Immigrant children are virtually excluded from public schools. The hospital refuses to treat the worker. Resistance speeches and organizations are silenced with bats by police.
And Hannah provides a particularly strong illustration of how company stores capture agricultural workers in a cycle of consumption and debt. This is an almost pictorial version of the insidious credit industry that enslaves millions of Americans today.
But even though Hannah shows a socialist belief in the need for stronger control over the power of capital, she is still a bad Marxist. After all, his main interest in The Four Winds remains the possibility of Elsa’s independence. Yes, the fight to unite agricultural workers ultimately provides the climax action of the story and the romance of its matte lens, but understand that the real focus is always the fear of ignoring courage.
It’s a brave Elsa battle to do. From almost the first page, this is a story about Elsa’s efforts to shake off the devastating limits imposed by her parents and become the one she wants to be.
In fact, despite the strong response of The Grapes of Wrath, Hannah may be approaching a 19th-century soap opera. The heroine of The Four Winds is purely heroic. His completely evil villain. Hannah does not risk ambiguity.
The page is 100% ironic. And it moves with a relentless rhythm. Her prose, which is very ordinary line by line, accumulates in the scene of rushing from one emergency to the next-hungry! Hitting! flood! -Pause only for sentimental breath. (These pages have little boys, so you can flavor 8 million cupcakes.)
Despite Hannah’s extraordinary commercial success, my snob wonders what this insatiable author could produce if she endured a bit of harsh editorial criticism and took a little more time. (He has published 24 novels in 30 years).
But that means playing with well-oiled machines that ensure that such a marketable passion is created. I confess. Turning to flat style, bright characters, and the nasty controversy of The Four Winds, she finally gave up and sobbed, I’m not crying, you’re crying!