Band of SIsters
by Cathy Gohlke
Why did you choose this book? I like the cover and the historical setting
When did you read this book? January 2014
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy historical fiction set in the early 1900s
Source: library ebook
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?
I really liked this one a lot! I’d seen it available through Overdrive at my local library about a year ago, and decided I wanted to read it then. The first thing that drew me to it was the cover. The peek at the vintage shoes was intriguing. Then I read the synopsis and the book was even more interesting to me. So when I saw it was no longer on the wait list, I decided to check it out.
The book is set in New York City in the early twentieth century and tells the story of Maureen O’Reilly, a young Irish woman, and her younger sister, Katie Rose. They come to America to escape a dangerous situation in Ireland after the death of their mother. They hope to get off to a good start in America by being welcomed by Colonel Wakefield, a man whose life was saved by their father during the American Civil War. However when they arrive, they learn the Colonel has died and his family is not at all welcoming. Maureen works hard to make a life for herself and her sister, taking a position in a department store patronized by wealthy New Yorkers. But as an immigrant woman, she is treated poorly and learns she is somewhat powerless. She does make a friend at the department store, but one day the friend just disappears, similar to the way other young women in the store have disappeared. They are victims of sex trafficking. Maureen works to solve the mystery, with the help of Olivia Wakefield, younger daughter of the Colonel.
I tend to think of sex trafficking as a ‘new’ crime, and didn’t realize how prevalent it was in early America. But it was prevalent enough that there were laws passed to deal with the issue, including the Mann Act mentioned in the book.
In addition to the historical setting, the story also has romance and suspense. One thing you should be aware of is the Christian aspect of the book. “What Would Jesus Do’ is a major theme in the book as the women study ‘In His Steps’ by Charles Sheldon. The characters in the book come back to this frequently. Maureen was a Catholic girl in Ireland, but in America, she attends a protestant church. There are a couple of times when she ponders the difference and the Catholic church appears to come off negatively. If either of these things would bother you, you are probably better skipping this one. But if this doesn’t bother you, or you can look past it, you will be rewarded with a very good story!
You can view a clip of the author discussing her book here.
My Rating: ★★★★ 4 Stars