Monday, September 10, 2012

BLOG TOUR: Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke

by Cathy Gohlke
Tyndale House Publishers, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4143-5308-1
Christian Fiction
Book received as part of blog tour.
All opinions expressed are solely my own.

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?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (Taken from Goodreads)

Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award–winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Promise Me This, William Henry Is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers' Book of the Year Award and was listed by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2008.

Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children's and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, make their home on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland. Visit her website at

Q & A with the AUTHOR

1. What motivated you to write Band of Sisters?

I’ve always been fascinated by the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement. But I was horrified to learn that there are more than twice as many men, women and children enslaved today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This book was born of a passion to end modern-day slavery, and most of all, to ask, “What can I do to help in a need so desperate?”

2. What research did you do?

My research began with human trafficking today and the fight to abolish modern-day slavery through books, the internet, and through organizations and individuals that are helping in various ways—raising awareness, rescuing, restoring and healing victims, tracking down and prosecuting predators, education of men and boys re. the human rights and intrinsic worth of women, safe houses, etc., and those who fundraise to assist organizations or individuals who are already doing these things.

For historical background I watched documentaries and read (books, old newspapers, archives) about the growth of old New York, the social conditions and desperation of the poor and of immigrants in particular, the disadvantages to those who did not speak English, the unique problems of women and children—the opportunities for and difficulties of making a living wage outside of prostitution, the threats made to women and their families to coerce them into sexual service, of their economic desperation without a male provider, of their few legal rights, and of the unfair treatment women received in court. Those studies led me to the development of the sweatshops, the growth, expansion and revisions of the settlement house movement, the work of Jacob Riis in making the abject poverty of thousands known to the public.

Learning of those conditions led to a special interest in Irish immigrants—their cultural and social strengths and weaknesses, their views of family, their aptitude for and reception in different types of employment in America.

My husband and I made two trips to NYC. From there we conducted research at Ellis Island, took several tours in the Tenement Museum, and bought more research books and maps, including more on the Triangle Waist Factory fire.

Once I knew my storyline, I mapped out locations of the story and trekked through Manhattan, exploring old sites, especially between Mid-town Manhattan, through Washington Square and the surrounding NYU area (including the site of the Triangle fire), the Bowery and the Lower East Side. As I walked, photographed the city, explored, and talked with residents, the voices of my characters erupted. I gladly followed their lead.

3. Your characters are strongly influenced by the question asked in Charles Sheldon’s classic, “In His Steps”—“what would Jesus do?” Why did you choose that book to help tell your story?

After all my research I knew I had the historical elements needed. What I didn’t know was the inner conflict of each character, or the answer to the all-important question: “what can I do to help in a need so desperate?”

I found my answer by confronting the question Sheldon posed in his very popular book of the time, “what would Jesus do?”

If we all truly do what Jesus would do, slavery will end. Jesus never exploited men or women—He uplifted them and showed them a path of hope, a new way of thinking and living. He never used children, or child labor for ease or gain—He blessed little ones, demonstrating their great worth. He never bought or sold babies to fulfill the bride “needs” of a one-child culture. He never bought or sold human organs, or fetuses, or body parts. He never lied to immigrants, never enslaved them, never threatened their families or loved ones or lives if they did not comply with His demands, never coerced or forced, never shamed or punished a single person into submission to His will. But in every way He set a moral compass, employed Divine compassion to the broken hearted and broken bodied, and held to account any and all who victimized others.

4. Human trafficking and the abolition of slavery is such a huge problem, let alone rescuing and restoring its victims. What can I do to help?

*First, learn all you can through reading and talking with individuals and organizations who have already joined the fight:
  1. Google “human trafficking” to learn what is happening in the world.
  2. Contact your local library, social services, churches or police force and ask what is being done in your community to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking. They can help you find books, organizations, and on-line information to educate yourself about:
    • The crime (what is human trafficking and where in the world it occurs—you will be astonished)
    • The people at risk
    • The methods traffickers use to capture and enslave
    • The tracking down, arrest and prosecution of predators
    • The rescue, restoration, and healing of victims
    • The fight to abolish slavery through legal means
    • The education of men and boys re. the dignity and worth of women and girls
    • Organizations and/or Individuals that are already working to do the above-**See my website at for a growing list of these sites. If you find more, please let me know so I can add them.
*Once you understand what organizations and opportunities are already in place, determine what you are able and equipped to do. That might include:
  1. Work directly with one of these organizations, either in this country or in a foreign country
  2. Validate, affirm, encourage and engage girls or women who are at risk or in the process of healing
  3. Welcome strangers into your church as part of the church family
  4. Take a rescued victim into your home or provide housing
  5. Mentor a victim, or a girl or woman at risk
  6. Help a woman find safe and gainful employment and/or child care
  7. Help a woman applying for a job find appropriate clothing
  8. Provide childcare and/or transportation when needed
  9. Tutor a student, young or not so young and encourage hopeful options
  10. Invite women or girls for a meal in your home or take them out for a meal or event, using the opportunity to reaffirm their worth
  11. Provide assistance for medical care—practical or financial
  12. Speak up when others make slurring or disrespectful comments re. women, immigrants, homeless, etc.—attitudes must change to make change last
  13. Do not patronize stores, hotels, sporting events or other venues where you believe women or children are trafficked
  14. Provide legal counsel, assistance or finances for same for victims
  15. Write or speak out against trafficking

What a book! Heartfelt and complex, the book follows the experiences of two young Irish girls who flee their native home in search of freedom. I immediately felt a connection with Maureen, who despite the awful treatment she received at the hands of her village's landlord, still has spirit enough to try to save herself as well as her 13-year-old sister. Unfortunately like many immigrants before her, she found the reality of life in New York very different from what she'd hoped. Uncertain who to trust and with her faith in God depleted she discovers that she is not as alone as she thinks she is. Can she find the hope and courage to rise above the past and face the dangers of her present?

Not only is this book beautifully written, but it is so full of heart and hope despite the heart-wrenching circumstances of the main characters, Maureen and Katie Rose. I'm not sure what else to say, except that I loved the book and I highly recommend it.  The author does a fabulous job of re-creating the world of tenement housing of the early 1900s. This story is so believable and real, that I couldn't help but wish I could help the characters. The whole issue of modern slavery sickens me, and yet slavery has been around since Biblical times and remains with us today. There is much power in asking ourselves the question, "What would Jesus do?" Hopefully, reading this book will lead all of us to ask this question.

I hope to do some of the things that the author mentions above to help those who need a helping hand. While I don't have the means to help everyone, none of us do. I can help those around me, at school, at work, at church.  I feel stronger than ever the need to contribute to my church's ongoing efforts to help those around the world find the means to help themselves. I hope you feel the same.

1 comment:

  1. Heidi--You have entirely blessed me by your take away from this book! Each of us touch the lives of those around us, and in that way we change the world--one life at a time.

    Thank you for your excellent review and for truly capturing the message of "Band of Sisters!" God's blessings for you!


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