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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
In the middle of the nineteenth century, life in Germany for the average person was incredibly hard. A failed revolution, crop failures, the potato blight, plus political and religious repression made many look to the “new world” of the United States for salvation and freedom. Along with many other Europeans of the mid-1800s, thousands upon thousands of Germans decided to make the long, arduous, risky and frightening voyage into the unknown, often in appalling conditions, in the hope of a new life. In Transatlantic Ticket 1852 (Passage to the New World) by Jan Frazier, we meet two simple farming families facing exactly that dilemma; whether to leave the familiar, all that they know and love in the German countryside, for the unfamiliar and scary world of the frontier, Midwestern USA. The Pollmann and the Haas families made this hazardous journey together, along with their retinue of young children, with little understanding of the trials and tribulations that awaited them before they could even arrive at Christian Pollmann’s brother’s house in the town of Pekin, Illinois.
Based on the true journey of author Jan Frazier’s great-grandparents' own journey, Transatlantic Ticket 1852 (Passage to the New World) is a compelling story of despair and travails, as these families seek somewhere to call home, where they can be free from political and religious interference and where their children can experience a better life than that left behind. Overriding all the angst and horror of the journey is an unshakable faith that their God was protecting them, and a determination to do whatever was necessary to protect each other and their young children. I found the story gripping and the descriptions of the horrors on board the steerage sections of these immigrant ships simply riveting, and yet the faith and belief of the parents that they were doing the best thing for their families shone through and overcame even their own doubts. This is an incredibly easy read, well written, with beautifully descriptive prose. I have not come across this author before, but will definitely keep an eye out for her works in the future. If you like historical novels (and I love them), you will adore this book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.