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The Olson Journey

The Olson Trilogy by Ann Hanigan Kotz

Follow Ann Hanigan Kotz's journey in writing the Olson series. See excerpts from her newest novel. (photo of the Loess Hills by Julie Christensen Brown.)

Book 1 of the Olsen Series

When her husband Kristoffer dies from a burst appendix in Iowa in 1905, middle-aged Karoline Olsen, mother of six, must make the 145-mile trip from Cedar Falls to Soldier by horse-drawn wagon to bring his body home. With the corpse on fast-melting ice, Karoline struggles to make good time across the rolling prairie during an exceptionally hot summer, recalling the story of their rocky marriage that brought them from Norway to the New World. The young couple, anxious and naïve, arrive in the United States in 1884, with hopes of establishing a farm among other Norwegian immigrants, but are met instead with constant battle against disease, famine, and poverty. A chronicle of the Olsens’ fight to survive in the undeveloped Midwest, to preserve tradition in a new context, and to protect their family from the ravages of pioneer living, The Journey of Karoline Olsen is the tale of a woman and a wife building the American Dream out of nothing but the dirt on which she stands.

Ann Hanigan Kotz’s debut novel of love, loss, and heartache is based on her own family’s heritage, traced back to its roots and reimagined through a fiction akin to Faulkner. 



The Journey of Karoline Olsen

Sons and Daughters

Book II of the Olson Series

With her husband freshly buried, Karoline Olsen now shoulders the twin burdens of raising her large brood of children, including the one she carries in her belly, and managing a difficult farm life by herself in the Loess Hills. Spanning 1905 to 1933, the second installment of the Olsen series brings major world events—WWI, the Spanish Flu, Prohibition, Suffrage, and the Great Depression—to Iowa, impacting the lives of the Soldier inhabitants, including the Olsens.  

Karoline struggles to keep her children safe and close to their Norwegian roots in the face of pressure to remarry again. She can only watch as one by one her adult children are forced to endure the difficult choices in life, love, marriage, and business, leaving each of them with scars that may never heal. The Lunatic, the Gambler, the Whore, the Teacher, the Entrepreneur, and the Farmer are all titles affixed to these once-innocent children of Kristoffer and Karoline Olsen.

A continuing chronicle of the Olsen family’s survival, Sons and Daughters is the tale of a widowed woman fighting to preserve a legacy, carve her own path amid tragedy and historic hardship, and guide six first-generation American children who are discovering their own identities in a rapidly changing world.

Ann Hanigan Kotz’s second novel of love, loss, violence, and identity once again connects her own family’s ancestors with a vision from the past.

Coming Fall 2024

Moonshine by Moonlight

By the light of the moon, hidden in the rolling hills of 1923 Carroll County, Iowa, illegal whiskey flows from homemade stills. Defying Prohibition, farmers-turned-entrepreneurs turn their hog houses, barns, and basements into moonshine operations to feed their families and save their land while dodging the ever-present federal regulators, led by Alvin Truly, the newly deputized agent of the northern district. To stay ahead of the law, the distillers band together into a syndicate, led by a kingpin unknown to all but one man. The anonymous bootleg king builds an empire of whiskey with thousands of gallons of moonshine flowing over Iowa’s borders while conjuring bigger and better ways to get their product across state lines—some going to the famous Chicago mobster—before federal agents can discover their schemes.  Agent Truly, however, has his own plots to trap the bootleggers and bring them to justice. Federal agents against farmers, Wets against Drys, Protestants against Catholics, Moonshine by Moonlight weaves together a fictional story of the bootlegging era while representing the authentic legacy of Carroll County’s underground whiskey industry during one of the most raucous periods of American history.


Ann Hanigan Kotz’s third novel exposes the power struggle between the law and the lawless and once again brings readers to Iowa’s past. 


14 Sunset Circle, Adel IA 50003

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Sons & Daughters (book 2) excerpts

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