"The Four Winds is a reminder of the strength and durability of the human spirit," the author tells PEOPLE

By Sam Gillette
July 16, 2020 12:00 PM
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The author
Deborah Feingold

Kristin Hannah, author of The Great Alone, is set to release her latest novel about love and heroism in Texas in 1934, entitled The Four Winds.

In an exclusive announcement with PEOPLE, the author reveals the book's cover and gives a first look at the story of Elsa Martinelli, who must decide to fight for her home as Texas enters the Dust Bowl era, or head west to California. The Four Winds will be published by St. Martin's Press in February 2021.

"Three years ago, I had no idea the Great Depression would become so relevant to today. But history offers us hope," Hannah, 59, tells PEOPLE. "The Four Winds is a reminder of the strength and durability of the human spirit. We have faced hardships before in America and survived, even thrived."

She adds: "It is our idealism and our courage and our commitment to one another—what we have in common—that will save us."

St. Martin's Press

A New York Times bestselling author, Hannah has gained a devoted following of readers drawn to her stories of perseverance, loss, and the bonds that connect us. Her novel The Nightingale is being adapted into a film that will be released on Christmas Day, 2021, starring sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning. Hannah's book Firefly Lane will be adapted into a series by Netflix.

"In this powerful new novel by perennial bestseller Hannah, two sisters clash in German-occupied France during World War II. With her husband called from their village to the front, Vianne struggles to protect their young child; defiant Isabelle insists on joining the Resistance," reads PEOPLE's review of The Nightingale, when it was first released in 2015. "The women's choices divide them, but both face moral dilemmas and must make unthinkable sacrifices. Combining action and heartrending emotion, their tale is an unforgettable portrait of love and war."

Keep reading for an exclusive excerpt from The Four Winds. 

On the morning after her wedding, Elsa Wolcott woke late. She pushed the hair from her face. Fine strands were stuck to her cheek; she’d cried in her sleep.

Good. Better to cry at night when no one could see. She didn’t want to reveal her weakness to this new family.

As she dressed, she realized how wrong her clothes were for farm life. She was a town girl; what did she know about life on the land? All she’d brought were crepe dresses and silk stockings and heels. Church clothes.

She slipped into her plainest day dress, a charcoal-gray with pearl buttons and lace at the collar, then pulled up her stockings and stepped into the black heels she’d worn yesterday.

Outside, she saw the Martinelli farm in full sunlight for the first time. Hundreds of acres of harvested wheat fanned out in all directions, a sea of rough burnished gold, with the homestead part taking up a few acres in the middle of it all.

A driveway cut through the fields, a brown ribbon of dirt bordered by cottonwoods and fencing. The farm itself consisted of the house, a big wooden barn, a horse corral, a cow paddock, a hog pen, a chicken coop, and a windmill. Behind the house was an orchard, a small vineyard, and a fenced vegetable garden. Mrs. Martinelli was in the garden, bent over, no doubt doing her best to ignore her new daughter-in-law.

Elsa stepped down into the yard.

Mr. Martinelli came out of the barn and approached her. “Good morning,” he said. “Walk with me.”

He led her along the edge of the wheat field; the shorn crop struck her as broken, somehow, devastated. Much like herself. A gentle breeze rustled what remained, made a shushing sound.

“You are a town girl,” Mr. Martinelli said in a thick Italian accent.

“Not anymore, I guess.”

“This is a good answer.” He bent down, scooped up a handful of dirt. “My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family. We plant, we tend, we harvest. I make wine from grape cuttings that I brought here from Sicily, and the wine I make reminds me of my father. It binds us, one to another, as it has for generations. Now it will bind you to us.”

“I’ve never tended to anything.”

He looked at her. “Do you want to change that?”

Elsa saw compassion in his dark eyes, as if he knew how afraid she’d been in her life, but she had to be imagining it. All he knew about her was that she was here now and she’d brought his son down with her.  She’d brought shame to this beautiful land.

“Beginnings are only that, Elsa. When Rosalba and I came here from Sicily, we had seventeen dollars and a dream. That was our beginning. But it wasn’t what gave us this good life. We have this land because we worked for it, because no matter how hard life was, we stayed here. This land provided for us. It will provide for you, too, if you let it.”

Elsa had never thought of land that way, as something that anchored a person, gave one a life. The idea of it, of staying here and finding a good life and a place to belong, seduced her as nothing else ever had.

She would do her best to become a Martinelli through and through, so she could join their story, perhaps even take it as her own and pass it on to the child she carried. She would do anything, become anyone, to ensure that this family loved the baby unconditionally as one of their own. “I want that, Mr. Martinelli,” she said at last. “I want to belong here.”

He smiled. “I saw that in you, Elsa.”

From The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Copyright © 2020 and published by St. Martin’s Press. All rights reserved.