The Price

The Price is now available at Amazon for Kindle and as a paperback from Amazon and other online booksellers.

Many Americans don’t know that they are descended from Swiss Immigrants. I didn’t. Even those of us who do genealogical research might get the information that our ancestors came from a place called the “Palatinate,” or the Alsace, or some town in Southern Germany or the Black Forest. We may not think about how those people might have migrated themselves from towns in Switzerland during the hundred or so years between the Reformation and the moment that families began leaving Europe to settle in the “New World.”

The Price tells the story of these immigrants. The story is (very loosely) based on the story of my own family, a story that could be anyone’s, really. These people were Mennonites, originally from the area around Z├╝rich. Some had fled persecution during the 16th century and gone to more Mennonite-friendly areas in the Alsace. Some fled and returned. Some stuck it out even when it meant imprisonment, confiscation of their property, the kidnapping of their children and death. 

My experience with American history was that all the people who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom wanted to, but my heart and mind told me that this could not be the case. The reality of their decision hit me as I stood on a boat landing on the Rhine in the town of Stein am Rhein in Switzerland. Over the landing was a date painted in bright colors, carved into stone. The date was 1665.

I had no idea at the time (it was 1997) that any of my ancestors had come from Switzerland or that it was possible that they might have stood on this boat landing to board a river boat that would take them to Basel and from there to the comparatively friendly lands of the Palatinate.

The boat landing and the customs house, the courtyard, the stairs, all of it contrasted completely with what I knew of life in America in 1665, and I understood at that moment what many European immigrants had left behind as I had not understood it before. For years I was haunted by that boat landing on the Rhine and my realization of what the decision to emigrate would have involved. In The Price I have written about that decision and what it cost those who made it.