Thursday, October 18, 2012
Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke
Maureen O’Reilly and her younger sister flee Ireland in hope of claiming the life promised to their father over twenty years before. After surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their benefactor, Colonel Wakefield, has died. His family, refusing to own his Civil War debt, casts her out. Alone, impoverished, and in danger of deportation, Maureen connives to obtain employment in a prominent department store. But she soon discovers that the elegant facade hides a secret that threatens every vulnerable woman in the city.
Despite her family’s disapproval, Olivia Wakefield determines to honor her father’s debt but can’t find Maureen. Unexpected help comes from a local businessman, whom Olivia begins to see as more than an ally, even as she fears the secrets he’s hiding. As women begin disappearing from the store, Olivia rallies influential ladies in her circle to help Maureen take a stand against injustice and fight for the lives of their growing band of sisters. But can either woman open her heart to divine leading or the love it might bring?
Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke was an interesting and truly captivating story that illustrated the presence of trafficking even in the early 1900's. The plot line was engaging and moved at the perfect pace. There were chapters that moved quickly and there were also chapters that were slower and focused more on the characters' feelings and thoughts. The book had instances of suspense, mystery, romance, sadness, and joy that nicely combined to keep me emotionally engaged in the storyline. The plot followed the life events of the characters primarily, but it also had a broad enough scope to clearly portray the poor living and working conditions the Irish immigrants had in America. This allows the plight of the characters to really shine through and cause that sympathetic connection with the reader. The narration of the story alternated primarily between Maureen and Olivia, but Maureen's younger sister and one of Maureen's friends also have a couple chapters from their perspective.
The characters in this novel were excellently developed and realistic. The main characters all had their strengths and weaknesses, and their struggles to overcome their flaws was realistic and inspiring. I really liked Maureen. She was strong willed, stubborn, and unafraid to stand up for what she felt was right. I enjoyed watching her grow in her knowledge of God, her trust towards others, and her courage to fight against injustice. I had more trouble connecting with Olivia because her troubles as a wealthy woman seemed less important in comparison to Maureen's. I did admire her persistence in seeking out Maureen, her relationship with God, and her desire to do more to help the oppressed immigrant women. I especially loved her discussion of the book In His Steps and her application of it to the proper mindset the 'band of sisters' should have -what is the Holy Spirit calling us to do? The other minor characters supported the main characters well and added a nice variety and depth to the story.
The themes of the Band of Sisters were clear and convicting. These included the importance of following God's will for your life, the reality of trafficking and slavery for women in America, and the call we have to help those who are suffering.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and I would highly recommend The Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke.