Bev’s Imaginary Book Club: Before We Were Yours, The Neighbors, and The Four Winds

Bewks! I mean books! I mean berks! Never mind.

Okay, it’s March 11th. I remember one year ago today I was shooting a recipe whilst listening to NPR, and I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing that the WHO (not the band) had just declared Covid a global pandemic. Remember that? It’s been a year. An entire year. Which in ways feels like 678 years. But in other ways, merely a blink. Isn’t that wild? This has nothing to do with books. I’m just marking the occasion. I did get my first shot yesterday, so the hope has now settled into my gut and is gonna simmer there and I’m letting it.

Books are saviors, there’s no question. And these three that I’m recapping today – well, you need to be warned. I didn’t pick anything warm and fuzzy to talk about. These books are GRIT, man. Not so much The Neighbors, but I couldn’t not talk about it because it was such a surprise enjoyment. And I need you to know about it.

Ready? We can hold hands if you wa- no? Okay.

Before We Were Yours: UUUUUUUGH.

First of all, it’s a slightly older book. I’m just tragically late to this heartbreak. This is the thing about it, if you can separate yourself from the gut-wrenching sadness, it’s actually quite beautiful. It’s got these major Where The Crawdads Sing vibes, with the heavy wilderness and river talk, the poverty within the family, all of it. You’re THERE. You’re right there on that shack-like Mississippi River shantyboat.

The other thing about this book, is that it’s based on a true story. I had absolutely no idea that this child trafficking institution was happening in Memphis in the ’30s and ’40s under the guise of an “orphanage.” It’s so sad. SO so sad. So when you read names like Georgia Tann in the book, you can GOOGLE IMAGE THAT BIA MONSTER and see her actual face. And it will make you crazy.

In short, it’s the story about this family whose four (wait, five?) children get lit-rally stolen from them (while the mom’s having twins in the nearby town) and forced to live in this horribly abusive orphanage. And it is just awful. (I’m not selling this very well, am I?) That was the thing about this place. They’d take babies and children from loving (but poor) homes and sell them to movie stars and politicians like it was nbd. This happened. Have you read this book? I’m clearly still not over it.

The other thing that I loved, was that it bops back and forth from current times to the then times, and ties together a family scandal from today to the web of sisters from back then. I tried to figure it out as it was all happening, and I didn’t see that twist coming. Dang it, Wingate. Bravo on that one.

If you need your eyeballs and heart simultaneously ripped out of your bodies and stomped on with a baseball bat, read this! As tragic as it is, it’s one of my favorite books of this year so far. Is that deranged?

Don’t answer that.

The Neighbors: OMGGGGGGG.

This wasn’t a book anyone recommended. (at least I don’t think) I occasionally do these deep dive rabbit hole excursions through GoodReads and I somehow landed on this one. The premise sounded fun. Scandalous, mysteriously dramatic, maybe a tad cliché. But it actually caught me off guard at how much I loved it! For me it was up there with edge-of-your-seats reads like Behind Closed Doors and The Couple Next Door. SO GOOD.

I won’t give anything away, but it’s this couple who moves in next door to another couple. And the husband of this couple and the wife of that couple have major history. But no one else knows it. It also goes back and forth from 1992 to current times, because something excruciatingly horrible happens back then, and – will it taint the current relationships and lives? What will be uncovered? Who knows the truth? Who will discover the truth? And then something so unexpected happens right at the end your face will explode off your body. It’s WILD. I loved it so much. Highly recommend.

Have you read it? Bump it up.

The Four Winds: WOW. wow. WOW.

I mean, it’s Kristin Hannah. Girl knows how to severely depress us. You all know how much I loved The Great Alone and The Nightingale (and how I apparently read Winter Garden twice, my gosh.) This one is just as fabulous.

The book takes place in the Texas Panhandle during the Great Depression. Which already sounds so awful. And then you add the DUST BOWL to the whole mix, broken love, a stubborn tween and the never ending hardships that life just keeps swinging their way and it’s just too much. You’ll want to brush your teeth 45 times a day. And wash your face with clean sudsy water. And appreciate your soft cotton sheets with no body outlines of dust each day when you rise from bed. Classic Hannah, teaching us to appreciate every tiny ding dang thing around us.

I just thought the book was fantastic. Depressing, yes. But also so touching and very sweet in unexpected places. Is there a happy ending? Well, you’ll see. Is justice served for those migrant workers in California during this horrendously unfair time? I’ll let you decide. (I find it interesting that not that much as changed from then to now. In ways, yes. But in other ways, not at all.)

It’s gut wrenching. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful and sad and wonderful and terrible. All of it together. Saddle up and read it, pronto.

Who would play Elsa in the movie, you think?

This is what’s next! I obviously made this collage photo before I read The Four Winds, and I didn’t go back and make a new photo because I’m a Leo/Virgo and it doesn’t mesh well. So there’s that.

I’m about 100 pages into Rodham, and it’s great! It’s fiction, yes. But it’s sort of like the Sliding Doors version of what would have happened if Hilary never married Bill Clinton. I find it fascinating.

Have you read any of these? I’ve heard nothing but incredible things about every single one of these books. Tell me what’s on your nightstand! You know I live for book recs.

And here are The Other Book Club Posts, if you need something to do with your life today.

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21 Responses to Bev’s Imaginary Book Club: Before We Were Yours, The Neighbors, and The Four Winds

  1. Kristan Mosley March 11, 2021 at 9:45 am #
    I've read The Push. So good, if not hella disturbing. Major "We Need to Talk about Kevin" vibes, if you've read that one. American Dirt is on my nightstand! If you want something light, I am enjoying The Flatshare. A few others I'd recommend are Dear Edward, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Good Neighbors.
  2. Courtney McGrale March 11, 2021 at 10:19 am #
    Now I’m going to read “The Neighbors,” based on your review, because I adored “The Couple Next Door.” My book club discussed “Before We Were Yours,” which we all loved, and “Four Winds” is our current read; so we are sympatico!! I’m on an unplanned “abducted baby” streak, as I just finished “Where the Forest Meets the Stars,” by Glendy Vanderah (an Amazon FirstReads free book this month- EXCELLENT!) and I just got an ARC of Kristen Harmel’s newest “The Forest of Vanishing Stars.”
    • Courtney McGrale March 19, 2021 at 11:32 am #
      I’m 3/4 of the way through The Four Winds! Stunning!
  3. Renae March 11, 2021 at 10:45 am #
    I read The Four Winds in two days. What? No, I'm too busy for that. But my house sat a mess and laundry didn't get done because I couldn't put it down! There were times I contemplated stopping because it was just so dang depressing. But if there's one thing I know about Hannah is that she'll do something to bring me back up to even, so that I don't go lie in my bed and never want to get out. She did that with this one, too. I really enjoyed learning new (old?) things and also reading a new period of historical fiction, much closer to home for me. Thanks for the recs...you're always spot on, so I look forward to it!
  4. Jessica March 11, 2021 at 10:47 am #
    Currently on Four Winds, after that probably Before We Were Yours, then maybe Winter Garden? (First read through for me 😆). Feel like I need to read winter garden before spring. 🌻
  5. Heather March 11, 2021 at 12:00 pm #
    I'm reading The Push right now and I'm hooked (only a few chapters in). I read American Dirt and The Light We Cannot See and enjoyed those books. I have the other three on my TBR list. You didn't ask for recommendations, but I think that you should add We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry to your list. I think that you would really enjoy that book (if you like audiobooks, it was a great one!). It's also a funny and lighter book. Happy Reading!
    • Bev Weidner March 11, 2021 at 12:50 pm #
      Oh I'll always always take recs! Looking that one up now, thank you. :)
  6. Brittany March 11, 2021 at 12:06 pm #
    I highly highly highly recommend "The Most Fun We've Ever Had" by Claire Lombardo. It's absolutely phenomenal.
    • Bev Weidner March 11, 2021 at 12:48 pm #
      Oh I loooooooved that book! Such a treasure, absolutely.
  7. Rian March 11, 2021 at 12:40 pm #
    Rodham was one of my favorite books of 2020! I absolutely loved it and to be honest, wished it was the true story. I've actually loved every single book I've read by that author.
    • Bev Weidner March 11, 2021 at 12:49 pm #
      I've actually had others say the very same! :) I'm loving it so far.
  8. Bee March 11, 2021 at 12:50 pm #
    Gwyneth Paltrow = Elsa in my mind!
    • Bev Weidner March 11, 2021 at 1:28 pm #
      Ya know, I can see that! While she's pretty, she can cross over into rugged and natural, with the right (er, no) makeup. Totally!
  9. Tracy March 11, 2021 at 3:30 pm #
    I'm reading The Push right now. So disturbing! But quite a page turner for sure! I'm curious. How were you able to get your first shot? I'm in Kansas also. Are you considered phase 2? According to the phase plan I'm considered phase 5. I'm not over 65, not an essential worker, not highly exposed and don't have health risks. i.e. "the rest of the population over 16".
    • Bev Weidner March 11, 2021 at 3:41 pm #
      Happy to help with this! HyVee takes ANYONE. I made sure and they said yep! They want arms. I followed @kcvaccinewatch on Twitter for the zip codes with open slots. So do that, and then click his links. But it will take you here. Refresh until you see an open slot!https://www.hy-vee.com/my-pharmacy/covid-vaccine-consent
      • Tracy March 11, 2021 at 3:53 pm #
        Thank you!!!
  10. Susan March 11, 2021 at 6:14 pm #
    Have you read Lisa Wingate's The Book of Lost Friends? If not, I'm sure you'd enjoy it if you liked Before We Were Yours. Lost Friends is also based on a real situation and that seems to make me like her books so much. American Dirt is intense. I couldn't read it before going to bed because it lingered with me in a bad way. For the first time since college, I was reading two books at the same time: Dirt by day and another book before bed. Yeah, I'm that lame.
  11. Shelby N. March 11, 2021 at 6:27 pm #
    I LOVED The Four Winds, so so good. Kristen Hannah is so incredible. I'm about 80% in to The End of Her by Shari Lapena and it's so good so far, so much is going on and I have NO idea how this is gonna end. Unless the last 20% ends up doing a total nose dive, I recommend this one lol. The Things We Leave Unfinished by Rebecca Yarros was amazing as well. I tore through it in a day. For a non-fiction rec, You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism by Amber Ruffin & Lacey Lamar was excellent. It's told in a humorous way so as you read (or listen...the audio was awesome) you are cringing and shocked, but also have to laugh because Amber is a comedian and as she narrates each incident she adds humor and some great one liners.
  12. Bri Giles March 20, 2021 at 10:02 am #
    Anxious People was wonderful. So was Four Winds 😭😭😭. I also thought The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens were really fun! Lil sad, life choice kinda stuff, and they were lovely. Started the Invisible Life of Addie LaRue today and I’m INTO IT.
  13. Jan March 31, 2021 at 12:27 pm #
    I absolutely LOVED The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood! My favorite book in a good long time!

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