I didn’t think March could match February in the books I got to read, but I was wrong. Good books just keep being published, and I’m having a wonderful time reading them.
The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah
What a wonderful historical novel! In my opinion, The Four Winds is even better than Ms. Hannah’s 2015 novel, The Nightingale.
The Four Winds plunges the reader into the Dust Bowl and The Great Depression and never lets go. It’s been decades since I read The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, but The Four Winds put me in the dust, grit, and terror of that time even more than the Steinbeck classic. Maybe that has something to do with my age when I read each book, but somehow The Four Winds made a stronger impact on me.
This novel follows Elsa, a young woman starved for love. She throws caution to the wind, for once in her life, and it turns out to have dire consequences. I don’t want to give the story away, so I’ll just say it follows Elsa through the Dust Bowl in Texas and a desperate journey to California in hopes of a better and a healthier life. The book illustrates the difficult lives of migrant workers and how promises and dangers of unionization in the 1930s. There are strong secondary characters in the book.
I blogged about The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah in my June 2, 2017 blog post, You Need to Read These Books! and The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah in my March 26, 2018 blog post, Some March Reading, in case you want to know what I thought about them.
Daylight, by David Baldacci
If you’ve been following David Baldacci’s Atlee Pine series, you’ll love this book. This novel reveals many details about Atlee’s parents and childhood. She continues to search for her twin sister, Mercy, who was abducted from their bedroom when they were six years old. Her journey takes her into some very dark places and danger lurks at every turn.
Will Atlee find Mercy in Daylight? You need to read it for yourself to find out! This is Baldacci at his best.
52 Small Changes for the Mind, by Brett Blumenthal
This is a self-help book that probably should be read a week at a time over 52 weeks, but I had checked it out from the library. I read it over several days and took notes so I can slowly absorb the points it makes that I can benefit from. Many of the recommendations are things I’m already doing, but several really stepped on my toes and got my attention.
Here are a few examples from the book:
Week 9 – “Kick indecision.” Don’t waste time trying to make the perfect choice.
Week 14 – “Silence your inner critic.”
Week 15 – “Go beyond your comfort zone.”
Week 27 – “Minimize screen time.” (I thought this just applied to teens and young adults who spend too much time on their cell phones, but this segment made me realize that I’m guilty of spending too much time on the computer and using my tablet.
Week 39 – Recognize your fears and confront them.
Week 49 – “Deal with [your] demons.”
There are helpful tools and resources at the back of the book.
Soul of a Woman, by Isabel Allende
This turned out to be a surprisingly short book. I checked it out as an MP3 from the public library and listened to the entire book in an afternoon.
Ms. Allende begins the book with some experiences from her childhood and life in several countries, but the bulk of the book is about the status of women throughout the world.
She addresses all manner of abuses women endure at the hands of men and sometimes at the hands of other women. She writes about how tradition perpetuates the practice of female mutilation in parts of the world, how women are invisible in some regions due to Islamic law and practice, and how female babies are not valued and are sometimes killed in some cultures and countries simply due to their gender. She addresses human trafficking. She writes about how women the world over must struggle for every inch of progress they make in the business world.
Ms. Allende established The Isabel Allende Foundation in 1996 to pay homage to her daughter, Paula, who died at the age of 29 in 1992. The foundation works for the empowerment of girls and women through nonprofits in Chile and the San Francisco Bay Area. To read more about the foundation, go to https://isabelallende.org.
In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
I think I’ve read all of Erik Larson’s books now, until Thunderstruck is released later this year. Yes, I’m on the waitlist for it at the public library.
My earlier attempt to read In the Garden of Beasts didn’t work out. I just couldn’t get into the book. Although the premise of this book should be equally as gripping as his other books, even the second time around it didn’t hold my interest quite as well as Isaac’s Storm (Three Books Read in December 2020) or Dead Wake: The Last Crossing the Lusitania (4 Books I Read in February 2021.)
In the Garden of Beasts is the story of William Edward Dodd, US Ambassador to Berlin from 1933 until 1937, during the rise of Adoph Hitler. His mid-20s daughter, Martha – who is estranged from her husband — accompanies him and becomes quite a liability as she soaks in the nightlife of the city and forms a romantic relationship with a Russian.
Dodd was a professor, a thrifty, unassuming man – much the opposite of his daughter. He was the butt of jokes among his peers in Berlin because he insisted on driving his old car and wearing the clothes he’d worn as a professor back in the Midwest. Martha inherited none of her father’s personality traits.
This is a nonfiction book, meticulously researched, as are all of Erik Larson’s books. I learned a lot from the book. It was interesting to get a glimpse of the rising of the Third Reich from the perspective of an American living in Berlin.
The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only
Family Internment Camp During World War II, by Jan Jarboe Russell
You may recall that in my February 8, 2021 blog post, 4 Books I Read in February 2021, one the books I wrote about was the novel The Last Year of the War, by Susan Meissner.
As soon as news broke that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, the lives of all Japanese immigrants and Americans of Japanese descent were at risk. The FBI started arresting the men for no reason other than their ancestry.
I learned a lot from this book. One thing I hadn’t known about was the Asian Exclusion Act, passed in 1924, which made it illegal for Japanese immigrants to become US citizens.
Here’s a quote from pages 28-29 of the book about the steps President Franklin D. Roosevelt took to create a vehicle through which a hostage exchange program could be put into place in the event the United States entered World War II:
“On September 1, 1939, the day German tanks, infantry, and cavalry invaded Poland with 1.5 million troops, Roosevelt created a highly secretive division within the Department of State called the Special Division. He ordered this division to identify American civilians… who were currently in Japan and Germany and who would be in danger when the United States joined the war…. More than 100,000 American civilians were in harm’s way. A few months later, Roosevelt authorized the Special War Problems Division to find Japanese and Germans in America and in Latin America who could be used as hostages in exchange for the more valuable of the Americans…. In 1940, [FBI Director J. Edgar] Hoover installed the first group of FBI agents in Latin America. Based on the FBI reports, Roosevelt was convinced that Germans and Japanese in Latin America were a direct threat to hemispheric security.”
In addition, FDR formed an agreement with Peru that paved the way for 1,800 Japanese Peruvians with no ties to the U.S. to be brought to internment camps in Texas and other states. Pressure was put on other Latin American countries to do the same. All except Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil complied and deported Germans. Those three nations had internment camps of their own.
The men held in the internment camps were given an ultimatum. If they wanted to be reunited with their families — and these reunions had to take place inside the camp at Crystal City, Texas – they had to sign papers stating that they would relocate to their ancestral home country after the war. Imagine living for decades in the United States and then having to relocate to Germany or Japan as soon as World War II was over. Families were forced to make unimaginable choices in order to stay together.
I could go on and on, but perhaps I’ve given you enough detail that you will want to read the book for yourself. It was a real eye opener for me!
Until my next blog post
How is D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) Month going for you? I hope you have one or more good books to read this month.
Spend some time enjoying a hobby this week.
Keep wearing a mask, even if you’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19, so we can get back to doing all the things we like to do – like seeing relatives we haven’t seen in almost 18 months.
Note: National Library Week in the USA started yesterday. Support your local public library!