Book Review:  If You’re Not Quite Depressed Enough, Then Read This Book

Publication date:  February 2021

Category:  Mothers and children fiction, historical fiction.

Review, short version:  Four out of four skunks.

Review, long version:

Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds is about a woman who has a relentlessly rotten life and dies at age 40.

Why anyone would write a book like this, and why anyone would read it, is a mystery to me.

It was published in February 2021 while – as you’ll recall – we were seeing headlines like this:

But the reading public – instead of eschewing a depressing book about a relentlessly rotten life – devoured it.

Hannah’s book, which I only recently read – correction, tried to read – debuted at #1 on the February 21, 2021 New York Times best seller list.  The book wasn’t just somewhere on the list – the first week it was out, the book was #1:

And the book continued to make headlines, like this in April 2021:

And this, in July 2021:

The Publisher’s Weekly article said that from January through June 2021, The Four Winds sold 558, 479 copies.

That’s a bunch.

And that number doesn’t include how many people read the book without buying it – as in, borrowed it from a library.

So I queried my local library and here’s what I learned.  In 2021:

Most checked-out hardcover adult fiction:           The Four Winds
Number of checkouts: 100

Most checked-out eBook adult fiction:                   The Four Winds
Number of checkouts:  802

Most checked-out audiobook adult fiction:          The Four Winds
Number of checkouts:  500

That means that in 2021 more than 1400 people read the book, and that’s just from my library.

Unless – like me – they screamed “No more of her relentlessly rotten life!” and gave up after 200 (out of 448) pages.

So, 1400 people only from my library.

There are more than 9,000 public libraries in the U.S.

And I haven’t even started on Kindle readers, and paperback readers, and foreign language readers, including Greek:

Would you mind doing the math?  I’m too flummoxed to add it all up.

So, why did I read try to read it?

Because recently someone I trust said, “What?  You haven’t read The Four Winds?  You have to!  I loved it!”

So much for trust.

As is my wont, I went looking for company – specifically, Amazon reviewers who disliked the book as much as I did.  Out of the 102,000+ reviews, only four percent said The Four Winds was a stinker.  Here a review I especially liked:

“The tiny bit of light at the end was far too small to make up for all the sadness.  The notes at the end tell us her family lost someone dear in this pandemic, so it appears Ms. Hannah wants to be sure everyone shares her grief.  We are already there.  I needed something to lift me above today’s darkness and this sure wasn’t it.”

The reviewer is suggesting that Hannah was doing a “misery loves company” thing, and succeeded.

These reviewers all mentioned a theme I missed, not having read far enough into the book:

“What an anti-capitalist communist propaganda piece of crap.  Will never buy her garbage again.  I’m sure she’s donating all of her capitalist book income to the working poor.”

“Pro-communist rhetoric prompted me to stop reading 3/4 through.  I’ve loved all of her books, but this was a political activist sellout.  So disappointed.”

“I’m three-fourths though this book and I can’t even finish.  It’s horribly written, pro-communist dribble* that I can’t even bring myself to care about how it ends.  Don’t waste your time or money.”

*Did the reviewer perhaps mean “drivel,” rather than “dribble”?

So – The Four Winds, according to my Amazon colleagues and me:

“Sadness, misery, pro-communism, darkness, depressing, and death.”

And, well…why not?

Maybe some “dribble,” too…

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