Within the first 10 pages I was living the story. It just pulled me in and I could not put it down.
Destined to a life of servitude, Karl Kessel, a turn-of-the-century, second-born German immigrant from a Danube Swabian settlement in Surtschin, Yugoslavia receives an unexpected gift of a ticket, to America. Grasping his dream 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 opportunity 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 Katja steps off a train with their sons in the wilds of sparsely settled Wyoming, she questions, ''Is this where I am to spend my life?!'' Katja soon discovers that it is not only the geography of her situation which will make her life difficult, as she gives everything her husband demands of her, but it is never enough. In her debut historical novel, the first of a trilogy, Karen Schutte spins a compelling family story woven with rich historical detail. Her nuanced and unvarnished narrative exposes the harsh realities of life in the last century and many memorable events as the Kessels made their journey of life. 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
When Princess Theraisa Von Steiner discovers she is with child soon after the tragic death of her beloved David Ritter, there is no match for the trepidation that consumes her soul. The smallest level of comfort finds her when her Aunt Louisa offers the only solution: travel to family in the Volga region to have the child in secret. Little did Theraisa and Louisa know the journey would be so perilous, and 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 they left the only home they had ever known all of because of the incredible Manifesto for free land, 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---they 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 opportunity 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. Its The Great Depression. Jake knows he has to make some 'fast money' to get his family back to Wyoming, 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 field work and soon she's down to the flesh on her bones. She gives Jake an ultimatum. It's just the push Jake needed as they move off the rented farm and into their own tar-papered home 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 pay check and a retirement plan. The tide has turned, life is good. Their only son enlists to fight in WWII in Europe and they both have brothers who are Japanese POW's. Who will come home and who won't? What does the end of their life together bring? Who will be the first to die? Life is not always what it promises or seems and sometimes it breaks a person. In the winter of their years, Jake is left alone after Raisa dies, he's like a boat without a rudder. What does he do to fill the void? 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 surviving the ups and downs of life. The novel twists and turns through family stories passed down and fleshed out with imagination and carefully researched historical events. 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 General’s 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 Hurtgen Forest & Battle of the Bulge and 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 made 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 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 struggled to live life as his wife and family yearned to understand him and the haunting memories. Karen Schutte artfully pulls her readers into the harrowing depths and struggles of a WWII Sherman Tank Commander, the freezing struggle 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 cross roads of a life changing decision—three or 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 with 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, unforgettable aftermath of 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’.
WATCH FOR THE SERIES SEQUEL: LONG GRASS
- The first 4 books, as a series, were the National winner of the John E. Weaver Excellent Reads Award for Historical Series in 2017. “The Volga Germans Series”
- In 2014, Karen's work was awarded with the PEN AWARD by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.
- SEED OF THE VOLGA again placed as one of six a finalists by the 9th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards. 2015
- FLESH on the BONE was awarded first in Historical Fiction by the Wyoming State Historical Society at the awards lucheon in 2015. THE TICKET was also awarded this same award.
- I am please to announce that--- FLESH on the BONE was an "Award-Winning Finalist" in both the "Fiction-Historical AND Cover Design" catagories of the 2014 USA Best Book Awards. I am very please with this award---my book was one of four finalists.