This is kind of a Grapes of Wrath book, though not nearly as well written, which surprised me because I loved The Nightingale, the only other Kristen Hannah book I’ve read. Set in the early 1930s, we see the Texas panhandle’s booming farming community. Then the rain stops. Then the winds start. Then the dust storms devastate everything, and it’s years of starvation, farm loss, and death. Then the migration to California where these “dirty migrants” who were once hard-working, successful farmers are treated like diseased animals. Once there, they find not the “land of honey” they were led to believe, but a lack of jobs, no housing, and in some ways, an even worse life. This is where Elsa Wolcott has ended up after driving across the country with her two children, trying to find a place where she can get work and where her kids’ lungs aren’t filled with dust. And it’s here that she becomes the independent and strong woman she never was in Texas as she reluctantly becomes involved the the migrant rights movement and eventually becomes its champion.
This is a page turner about a time in history we need to be reminded of. Hannah is no Steinbeck, and her writing at times feels sophomorish and predictable; thus, this is no literary masterpiece. But, as a vacation read, it did the job of keeping me interested.