Irene Hunt’s No Promises in the Wind (1975) is a story about the plight of fifteen-year-old Josh and his brother Joey, set in the desperate state of the U.S. during the Great Depression of the ‘30s.
The two boys hailed from Chicago, born from a middle class family. The Stock market crashed signaling the start of the Depression (Great Depression, 2005). This has been “particularly severe in Chicago because of the city's reliance on manufacturing, the hardest hit sector nationally” (Deutsch, 2005). More than half of the workforce lost their jobs (Deutsch, 2005), including their father, Stephan. When this happened their father changed from someone who is kindhearted into a bitter, angry man.
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Those times were ridden with problems and he takes his anger out on his oldest son Josh. But rather, it could be supposed that he is angrier with himself for being helpless in their situation, what with the pressures of providing for his family.
Desperate times necessitate that kids those days mature early, and even though Josh is a mere boy, he leaves his family with his best friend Howie with dreams of being musicians, his little brother Joey tagging along.
The brothers experience a devastating blow when Howie got run over by a train. When they continued to venture forth, they realize how hard to make it out in the real world. They were cold and hungry, at times even resorting to begging for food.
They meet a lot of interesting and endearing people along the way and saw how people from different parts of the country, such as Louisiana and Nebraska, were being affected by the Depression. Such people like Lonnie, a generous trucker who tries to help them whenever he can despite tough times, and Emily, a beautiful and attractive a circus clown.
Hunt paints a harrowing portrait of that period and how desperate times change people, emotionally and psychologically. She shows that when the going gets tough, man’s instincts for survival take over, even at the sake of common goodness and humanity. On the other side of the coin, it is also a testament that kindness still endures.
The story is largely character driven, and the author makes good use of her skill in portraying emotions, especially how the Depression changed people. With deft descriptions and stirring language, she conjures a moving image of a desperate America, and what people do in order to survive. Some parts could seem too unrealistic, such as Josh’s illogical ambitions and the brothers’ seemingly continuous luck, but in the end it is successful in providing us a glimpse of the general populace’s real state of living during that period.
Deutsch, T. (2005). Great Depression. In The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved November 22, 2005, from http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/542.html
Great Depression. (2005). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 23, 2005, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression
Hunt, I. (1975). No Promises in the Wind. Chicago: Follet Publishing.
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