Category Archives: Kristin Hannah

Review: Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins

Title: Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 496 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins comes a funny and surprising new novel about second chances–and why the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous.

Lillie Silva knew life as an empty nester would be hard after her only child left for college, but when her husband abruptly dumps her for another woman just as her son leaves, her world comes crashing down. Besides the fact that this announcement is a complete surprise (to say the least), what shocks Lillie most is that she isn’t…heartbroken. She’s furious.

Lillie has loved her life on Cape Cod, but as a mother, wife and nurse-midwife, she’s used to caring for other people…not taking care of herself. Now, alone for the first time in her life, she finds herself going a little rogue. Is it over the top to crash her ex-husband’s wedding, dressed like the angel of death? Sure! Should she release a skunk into his perfect new home? Probably not! But it beats staying home and moping.

She finds an unexpected ally in her glamorous sister, with whom she’s had a tense relationship all these years. And an unexpected babysitter in of all people Ben Hallowell, the driver in a car accident that nearly killed Lillie 20 years ago. And then there’s Ophelia, her ex-husband’s oddly lost niece, who could really use a friend.

It’s the end of Lillie’s life as she knew it. But sometimes the perfect next chapter surprises you…out of the clear blue sky.


Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins is a poignant, humorous and uplifting novel of new beginnings.

Lillie Silva is not looking foraward to her empty nest when her son, Dylan leaves for college. But she has a plan that she hopes will ease her into her new life. She has arranged for a vacation for her and her husband, Brad. When he asks her out to dinner, Lillie plans to surprise her husband with the trip. Instead, she receives the shock of her life when Brad tells her he has met someone else and he wants a divorce. Lillie puts on happy face as she and Brad pretend nothing is wrong between them until Dylan leaves for college. Although Lillie wants nothing more than to try to fix her marriage, Brad is resolute. With their divorce and his upcoming second marriage moving at breakneck speed, Lillie gets a little revenge as she tries to adjust to her new life.

Lillie is a nurse midwife and she loves her job. She never imagined herself as a single woman and she is having trouble adjusting to living alone. Lillie veers between anger and grief as Brad turns into someone she barely recognizes. With her stoic yet loving father and her sister Hannah’s support, she moves through the grief she feels over the end of her marriage.

Lillie also unexpectedly renews her friendship with Ben Hallowell. When she was younger, Ben was a bit of a fixture in her house since he worked with her dad on his fishing boat. They lost touch before Lillie left for college and now her dad’s retired, Ben now owns his mentor’s fishing boat. Lillie discovers a lot about herself and Ben as they get to know one another again.

Out of the Clear Blue Sky is a thought-provoking novel that touches on a number of topics that are relatable. Lillie is a vibrantly developed character who is flawed but is also stronger than she knows. Dylan is a well-mannered caring young man and he is quite supportive of his mom. Ben is a steady presence who has changed a lot in the intervening years since they last saw one another. Lillie handles her heartbreak in some not so mature ways but those occasions are funny and quite memorable. As she settles into her post-divorce life, she comes to terms with past losses and life-altering events. The plot is multi-layered and  Kristan Higgins brings this captivating novel to a highly satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Kristin Hannah, Out of the Clear Blue Sky, Rated B+, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Title: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 450 pages
Book Rating: A+ & A Recommended Read

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From the number-one bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes a powerful American epic about love and heroism and hope, set during the Great Depression, a time when the country was in crisis and at war with itself, when millions were out of work and even the land seemed to have turned against them.

My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.”

Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.

The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it—the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.


The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is a poignant, true to life novel which realistically depicts the hardships of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

In 1921, Elsinore “Elsa” Wolcott is a twenty-five year old spinster with few hopes of marriage. Her family has crushed her self-esteem and they refuse to support her efforts for higher education.  A chance meeting with Rafe Martinelli changes the trajectory of her life after they marry and live with his parents Tony and Rosa on their wheat farm in Texas.  While Elsa loves Rafe, he instead dreams of leaving the farm and in his disappointment, he drinks too much and works too little. Even after the stock market crashes, the Martinelli farm hold its own. But when drought strikes and turns their land to dust,  Elsa works alongside her beloved in-laws to hold onto their land for her two children Loreda and Anthony. But as the Dust Bowl worsens, Elsa, Loreda and Anthony leave Texas for California with hopes for a brighter future.

Elsa is a pragmatic, hard worker who fears rejection so she avoids speaking of her love her for husband and children. She is proud and continues to hold out hope the weather will turn and the Martinelli farm will once again prosper. Not only is Elsa battling the elements and to keep food on the table, she is at odds with Loreda who is entering the teen years. Her daughter is close to Rafe who fills her head with dreams and hopes far away from Texas.

In order to find a better life, Elsa, Loreda and Anthony embark on a dangerous journey across the southwest to California. With their funds dwindling, Elsa and the children camp alongside other people looking to support their families. Living in tents, Elsa battles the locals’ prejudice for the migrants, struggles to keep her children in school and find work. With few options open, Elsa and her children travel with other migrants and pick various crop for extremely low wages.  Finally finding a permanent position, they discover that trying to get financially ahead is still elusively out of reach.

This is also the time period when protestors are trying to rouse support for unions and better wages. They find resistance with farm owners who seize on the migrants desperation to find work to pay them low wages for their backbreaking work. These owners utilize every tool (including violence) at their disposal to  prevent the workers from the protest. Loreda has the fire and passion to fight for migrants’ rights but will Elsa’s fears for supporting her family stop her from joining the protests?

The Four Winds is a captivating novel of heartbreak and resilience.  Elsa is a strong woman whose anxiety sometimes gets in the way of making hard choices. Loreda is a firebrand whose dedication to the fight for migrant workers is admirable… and dangerous. The various settings spring vividly to life which it makes it easy to visualize the sometimes horrific living and working conditions. Kristin Hannah brings this heartfelt and realistic novel to a bit of sad yet completely uplifting conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed and HIGHLY recommend  this incredible novel.

Personal Note:  The Four Winds is not based on my family’s story. Yet it is my family’s story. My great-grandparents, grandparents, dad, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived in Oklahoma during the depression and the Dust Bowl. This novel matches completely with my relatives’ accounts of living through this terrible time. My grandmother was a migrant farm worker who took my dad with her throughout the south where they picked cotton and other crops. It was backbreaking work for extremely low pay, but they survived and as the years passed, finally prospered.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical, Kristin Hannah, Rated A+, Recommended Read, Review, St Martin's Press, The Four Winds

Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Title: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical (70s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.


Set during the tumultuous 1970s, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is an incredibly compelling novel about a Vietnam vet who moves his family to the Alaskan bush in an effort conquer his war-related demons.

Thirteen year old Leni Allbright remembers nothing of the father she had before Ernt was drafted during the Vietnam War. Since his return, the family has frequently moved in an effort to outrun their troubles. She and her mother, Cora, are incredibly close and Cora implores her daughter to forgive her father and remember that he was not always like this. When Ernt receives a letter from his war buddy Bo Harlan’s father Earl letting him know Bo wanted him to inherit his land, Ernt once again uproots his family to move to the desolate, yet beautiful Alaskan bush. However, Ernt, Cora and Leni are completely unprepared for the harsh life in an unforgiving, isolated place where one mistake could prove fatal and life revolves around preparing for the upcoming winter.  Fortunately for them, their new neighbors in the small town of Kaneq pitch in to help them learn the much needed skills to survive in the bush, but will Ernt find the peace he is desperately seeking?

Leni is a resourceful, intelligent young woman who loves her mother but distrusts her father. She finds it surprisingly easy to adapt to her new life in Alaska and despite the hard work and harsh weather, she loves their new home. Despite the positive changes Leni sees in her father, she has grave misgivings about the effect winter will have on his tenuous stability and volatile behavior. When the long summer days end and the long, dark winter begins, Leni’s fears quickly come to fruition. Her pleas to her mother fall on deaf ears as Cora refuses to give up hoping that Ernt will turn back into the loving husband he was before the Vietnam War took such huge toll on his psyche.

The town of Kaneq is filled with quirky residents who have many different reasons for choosing to eke out a life in such an isolated and unforgiving yet incredibly beautiful and majestic state.  Marge Birdsall is a gregarious woman who is larger than life and more than willing to help the Allbrights navigate life in the bush. Tom Walker is from a prosperous family with deep roots in the community and he is the first to help his fellow Alaskans in time of trouble. Tom’s son Matthew and Leni strike a close friendship that withstands heartache and tragedy but Ernt’s animosity for Tom does not bode well for their relationship. The Harlan clan eagerly welcome Ernt and his family into their fold but when Ernt’s paranoia grabs hold, will they continue to support his radical and dangerous ideas?

The Great Alone  is a magnificent novel that incorporates true life events into the storyline. The characters are well developed with true to life strengths and human frailties that make them easy to relate to.  Narrated for the most part by Leni, her observations are insightful and due to her life experiences, she is very mature. Cora and Ernt are both incredibly frustrating characters but it is Cora that readers will have the most difficult time relating to as she stubbornly puts herself  and her daughter into danger with her poor decisions.  Never downplaying its dangers or its dramatic beauty, Kristin Hannah brings Alaska vibrantly and realistically to life. As someone who lived in Alaska for a number of years, I can assure readers that she has faithfully and brilliantly highlighted this raw and untamed state in all of its wondrous splendor.   I highly recommend this captivating yet bittersweet story of resilience, kindness, joy and sorrow that is heartbreaking yet ultimately, uplifting.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (70s), Kristin Hannah, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Great Alone, Women's Fiction

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

nightingaleTitle: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Literary Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front.  She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth.  While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely.  But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war.   The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.  It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

The Review:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a very compelling novel set in France during World War II. This riveting story about Viann Mauriac and her much younger sister Isabelle Rosignol is richly detailed and historically accurate, which makes it a sometimes heartbreaking read. But this close attention to detail is what makes it such a thought-provoking and outstanding book.

Viann Mauriac is happily married with an eight year old daughter when her life takes an unexpected and heartrending turn. Her beloved husband, Antoine, has been conscripted into the Army to defend France from the Nazis. In the early days of the German invasion, her father sends Isabelle to live with Viann and the sisters’ contentious relationship is further strained when Viann is forced to allow German officer Wolfgang Beck to live with them. As fighting rages on around them, both sisters are faced with unimaginable horrors as they struggle to endure the Nazi occupation and the devastation wrought by the long lasting war.

Viann is content to stay in the background and let her husband take care of her and their daughter. After Antoine leaves, she desperately clings to hope the war will end quickly and he will return safely to his family. This makes Viann seem naive and her unrealistic belief leads her to remain very passive for far too long. However, when her family is threatened, Viann will do whatever it takes to protect them, no matter what the personal cost to herself. She meets every challenge with a quiet strength that few people suspect she has, but will Viann’s efforts be enough to keep her family safe despite the brutality that is occurring around her?

Isabelle is rebellious, immature and dangerously outspoken at first.   Her anger and rage is quickly channeled into working for the resistance but she remains headstrong and fearless for much of the novel. Her tireless efforts save countless lives, but Isabelle’s risky and sometimes impulsive behavior puts herself and others into sometimes dangerous situations. Isabelle grows and matures over the course of the novel and she becomes a truly awe-inspiring young woman whose bravery and willingness to disregard her personal safety for the greater good is remarkable.

The Nightingale spans from 1939-1945 and Kristin Hannah accurately portrays every element of war torn France. From the first occupation through the war’s end, every hardship is realistically portrayed. The horrors of war are not romanticized nor downplayed, and this authentic depiction provides readers with a true to life perspective of what is indisputably a horrific time in the world’s history. This incredible novel serves as a vivid and poignant reminder of the horrendous loss of life, the terrible hardships and the unsung heroes of that long ago and nearly forgotten war.


Filed under Historical, Kristin Hannah, Literary Fiction, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Nightingale