1900 Surtschin, Yugoslavia: Destined to a life of servitude, Karl Kessel, a second-born German Immigrant living in a Danube Swabian settlement receives the unexpected gift, of a ticket, to America. Holding fast to his dream of one day owning his own farm, he leaves behind his young wife, Katja and two small sons. Karl boards the KronPrinz Wilheim and sails for a country he knows nothing about, only that it promises the opportunities he covets. When he arrives in America, he becomes consumed and obsessed with the unwavering desire to be the owner of a farm—to be his own man. Over a year later when his wife, Katja steps off a train with their three sons, she faces the wilds of the sparsely-settled Wyoming prairie and questions, ''Is this where I am to spend my life?!'' Life is difficult for Katja as she gives everything her husband demands of her--it is never enough. She misses the social refinement she grew up in--she finds nothing in this unsettled country but years of drudgery and deception. In her debut historical novel, the first of a family saga, Karen Schutte spins a compelling story woven with rich historical detail. Her nuanced and unvarnished narrative exposes the harsh realities of life in the 20th century as the Kessels struggle with what life hands them. The Ticket is an unforgettable and touching account of a true American family, filled with ambition, promises, love, loss, and ultimately, a legacy of survival.
First in Historical Fiction - 2013 by Wyoming Historical Society
After the tragic death of her betrothed, David Ritter, Princess Theraisa Von Steiner discovers she is with child. There is no match for the trepidation which consumes her soul. The smallest level of comfort finds her when her Auntie Louisa offers the only solution--- travel to where their extended family lives in the Volga region, to have the child in secret. Little did Theraisa and Louisa realize just how perilous their journey would become, and that the newborn child would be the one responsible for bringing the Steiner bloodline to America at the turn of the century. Based on the true story of author Karen Schutte's family, Seed of the Volga captures the chilling tale of her ancestor’s journey to the German settlements along the Volga River in Russia. Finding themselves destitute after decades of war, in 1765 thousands of Germans left the only home they had ever known all of because of the incredible Manifesto for free land and a new beginning which Catherine the Great of Russia had given them. For over 140 prosperous years, they lived in the Volga River region of Russia until they felt the hot breath of Russian politics breathing down their necks. They knew they must leave or die---many chose to leave, to immigrate to America. In 1907 David and Sofie Steiner discovered the streets in America were not lined with gold, but with hard work and disappointment--but also with freedom and a future.
Awards – Historical Fiction - 2015. Pen award Rocky Mtn. Fiction Writers – 2013, One of 7 Finalist - National Indie Excellence
It's the Roaring Twenties, Jake and Raisa Kessel are married with two kids and a pile of growing debt. They need a change, some new pickings. They pack up for the bright lights and new opportunities in Port Huron, Michigan. Soon, they are living high on the hog and enjoying life’s pleasures. Overnight, Jake finds himself standing in endless soup lines and even longer job lines. It's The Great Depression. Jake knows he has to make some 'fast money' to get his family back to the Wyoming farm, even if it might be illegal or dangerous. Back in a Lovell, Wyoming ‘share cropper's shack’, Jake and Raisa struggle to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Raisa isn't cut out to do the hard physical fieldwork and soon she's down to the flesh on her bones. She gives Jake an ultimatum. It's just the push Jake needs as they move off the rented farm and a tar-papered house in town. Japanese bombs fall on Pearl Harbor and everything changes. The government needs men to build the Heart Mountain relocation camp and Jake signs on. Months later, he takes a job with Marathon Oil giving him a steady paycheck and a retirement plan. The tide has turned, life is good. Their only son enlists to fight in WWII in Europe, they have brothers who are Japanese POWs. Who will come home and who won't? What does the end of their life together bring? Life is not always what it promises or seems. In the winter of their years, Jake is left alone after Raisa dies, he's like a boat without a rudder. Flesh on the Bone is a touching, realistic account of a true American family, filled with ambition, promises, love, and loss; it is a legacy of survival, of life. Schutte lays the tension, poverty, and daily grind of the lives of her characters on the table. She has a knack for getting into their heads and hearts and taking the reader with her. This---is a family saga, a story of the personal struggles of the immigrant's children!
Finalist, in top 4 nationally for Cover & top 7 for Historical Fiction - USA Book Awards – 2014. First in Historical Fiction – 2015 by Wyoming Historical Society.
1943: 18-year old Arnold Kessel and the 5th Division/81st Tank Battalion hit the beach at Normandy with Generals Patton & Hodges. In two days, he is baptized by fire as Patton/Hodges race through France to trap 100,000 Germans in the Falaise Gap. Tank Commander Kessel scraps his way through the horrors of the Hurtgen Forest & Battle of the Bulge then across Germany to the banks of the Elbe River, 50 miles from Berlin. Liberating Mittlebau-Dora Concentration Camp haunted the soldier until the day he died. With four Bronze Stars, Commander Kessel makes it back home. “Just get on with your life, forget the war” --- he tried. Then there was Korea and two more Bronze Stars. After serving in Korea, Kessel, he puts the six Bronze Stars in a box and forgets them. But he can’t forget what he saw and did. Harshly haunted by war, he struggles to live life as his wife and family yearn to understand him and his haunting memories. Karen Schutte artfully pulls her readers into the harrowing depths and struggles of a WWII Sherman Tank Commander, followed by the freezing battles against the North Koreans and Chinese, and the haunting memories of endless battles that shadow Kessel’s life. After reading Tank Commander, Terrill Korell, son of the Tank Commander, wrote, “My father and I always struggled to be close. I thought it was my fault and wondered what I did wrong. Schutte’s graphic book walked me through the daily horrors my father and millions of others suffered in the war. I now realize that my father was a Hero!”
Finalist, in top 3 nationally for Cover & top 6 for Historical Fiction - Best Book Awards – 2016.
First Book in a New Series
1858: John Westerhoff finds himself at the crossroads of a life-changing decision—three more years in the Prussian Cavalry or emigrate to America. He decides to take the gamble and sails for America. John arrives in German-settled Warsaw, Illinois where his dreams of owning a farm are dashed by the onset of the Civil War. Submitting to what his conscience and heart tell him, he joins Merrill’s Horse of the 2nd Missouri Union Cavalry. He is a farrier by trade and a valued member of the cavalry. “Without horses the cavalry becomes infantry!” The fighting takes him to the hotly divided state of Missouri---the Western Front of the Civil War. After numerous bloody battles, the unforgettable aftermath of the war, and terrible suffering, John returns to Warsaw, marries, and becomes a farmer and a father. The bitterness of the war lingers in the east, causing John and Elizabeth to take their three children and travel by covered wagon to the fertile rolling hills of Nebraska to start fresh, to homestead. There, they are baptized by the peace, hope, and promise of a new beginning. Every day brings a new trial and tribulation, it’s called ‘life’.
- The first 4 books, a family saga, were the National winner of the John E. Weaver Excellent Reads Award for Historical Series in 2017. “The Early German Series”
- In 2014, Karen's work was awarded the PEN AWARD by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.
- 2015 SEED OF THE VOLGA again placed as one of six finalists by the 9th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards.
- FLESH on the BONE was awarded first in Historical Fiction by the Wyoming State Historical Society at the Awards Luncheon in 2015. THE TICKET was also given this same award.
- FLESH on the BONE was one of four, "Award-Winning Finalists" in both the "Fiction-Historical AND Cover Design" categories of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards.