When Karl Kessel, a turn-of-the century German emigrant, receives an unexpected gift-another man's ticket to travel to America-he leaves behind his young wife and two small sons. Karl boards the KronPrinz Wilhelm, sailing for a country he knows nothing about - except that it promises the opportunity he covets. Arriving in America, Karl becomes obsessed with becoming the owner of a farm-to be his own man.
When Karl's wife Katja steps off a train with their sons in the inhospitable wilds of sparsely settled Wyoming, she questions, "Is this where I am to spend the rest of 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, including eight children, but it is never enough.
In her debut historical novel, Karen Schutte spins a compelling family story woven with rich historical detail, based on the true story of her own great grandparents' stark life in rural Wyoming. Her nuanced and unvarnished narrative exposes Karl's harsh nature alongside his determination to succeed at any cost.
We see America change throughout the span of their life together. The family endures the Great Depression, world wars, and the unthinkable loss of a son. Karl's demanding and sometimes abusive treatment of his sons eventually drives them from home; yet it instills a fortitude that helps his fourth son survive the Bataan Death March. At the same time, we see the role of women change, as Katja finally becomes empowered to make demands of her own - to receive what was promised.
The Ticket is an unforgettable and touching account of a true American family, filled with ambition, promises, love and loss, and ultimately, a legacy of survival.
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I ended up reading this book over the weekend and I was left utterly speechless. The Ticket is an emotional read that will make you take time to reflect on your own life as it compares to Katja's. I would highly recommend this book to any avid reader.
Hillcrest Publishing Group, Incorporated
September 13, 2010
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free. All opinions expressed are 100% mine. If you make a purchase using my Amazon or Barnes and Noble link, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.