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Broken Ground by Karen Schreck


“Engaging, lyrical, and inspirational, this is a novel for anyone interested in American history, immigration, gender studies, agriculture, or just a good story about human relationships and all the different directions life can go.” —Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Feathered Bone

“Repatriation” has recently become a more familiar term and a subject of increasing national debate, due to Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency. Conflicts concerning our immigrant population—both legal and illegal—as well as refugees seeking asylum continue to rise. These current events, along with their surrounding rhetoric, eerily mirror a long-suppressed element of U.S. history: the series of deportations without due process that occurred over the course of the 1930s.

Karen Halvorsen Schreck was researching the Dust Bowl of the 1930s for her new historical novel when she discovered information about what happened to the Mexican and Mexican-American population in California at that time.  Schreck already knew she wanted to write about this place and time period, but she had not been aware of how much historical relevance the decade had for our country today.  Tapping into her own family history—her mother was from the Dust Bowl and traveled as a student to California in the 1930s—Schreck has crafted an epic story, BROKEN GROUND (Howard/Simon & Schuster; May 2016).


A Historical Fiction Novel

By: Karen Schreck

In BROKEN GROUND, Ruth, a woman who is newly married and crazy in love, abruptly becomes a young widow when her husband Charlie dies in an oil production-related accident near their home in Oklahoma.  Ruth is forced to move back in with her disapproving, chauvinistic father and a mother who tries to keep the peace.  When an opportunity to attend a university in California on full scholarship opens up, she packs her bags and boards a train for the Pacific Coast.

Ruth is attractive and smart, and eventually catches the attention of one of her professors who recruits her as his personal assistant.  Things continue to go well for Ruth when a family friend invites her to their home for the holidays, and she develops an interest in their disabled son, Thomas.  Upon returning to school, Ruth’s life turns upside down when her professor crosses a line, but she is blamed and summarily expelled.  Instead of returning home to her narrow-minded father, she boards a bus and arrives on Thomas’s doorstep, where she asks him to bring her into the fold in a Mexican workers’ camp, where he has a teaching job. 

The challenges of Ruth’s transition from student to camp worker slowly dissipate, and she soon earns the respect of the campers by attracting the interests of their children.  Eventually, Ruth teaches by Thomas’s side and helps plan ways to protest the unlawful treatment of the Mexican migrant workers.  Nighttime raids—where entire camps are bused back to Mexico—were all too common, and Ruth needs to ensure the security of the camp, workers, and her new friends.

Karen Halvorsen Schreck is the mother of two Latino children, which brings the treatment of the Mexicans today and in our country’s past closer to home.  She has a passion for these complex issues and hopes that BROKEN GROUND will not only entertain as a novel, but also enhance the conversation about immigration in the United States today.

Karen Halvorsen Schreck is the author of the historical novel Sing For Me (Simon & Schuster), which was praised in a Publishers Weekly starred review. She received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Schreck teaches writing and literature and lives with her husband, photographer Greg Halvorsen Schreck, and their two children in Wheaton, Illinois. Learn more at her blog,

Broken Ground
A novel by Karen Halvorsen Schreck
Howard/Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
ISBN: 9781476794839
Price: $14.99