Price of Passage is the story of an immigrant to the United States during the tumultuous 1850s.
The 1850s was a volatile decade: The Slave Act of 1850, Bloody Kansas, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the disappearance of the Whig party, the rise of the Know-Nothing party, The Dred Scott decision of 1857, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry.
Anders Gunstensen plans to escape the indentured servitude to his uncle. He lights a lantern, his uncle sees the light and comes to barn to confront Anders about using the lantern, then tries to stop Anders from leaving. The two men fight, the uncle is accidentally knocked unconscious, possibly dead. Anders flees before anyone can discover his uncles body.
He boards the first ship, it’s sailing for New Orleans. He meets people who he will travel with to Illinois, assists a runaway slave, agrees to work for a farmer in Illinois.
When Anders decides to homestead in Illinois, he meets another kind of servitude, he borrows money from a local lender to buy equipment for his new farm.
Anders experiences the backbreaking work of a farmer, the joys and sorrows of family life, and then the Civil War erupts with more sorrows to come.
Anders is the main character of this book, but the women are not forgotten. Kirsten Haraldsdatter arrives at her husband’s farm to find that she became a widow a week before her arrival. She decides to stay and farm the land with her children.
Maria, the woman who marries Anders, becomes a widow, but decides to stay and farm the land belonging to her and her husband.
The women face the same hardships as the men, and when they have to stand alone, the persist.