The day has arrived!
I have the immense pleasure and honor through Tyndale House Publishers to review Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke.
Without much pretense, I’ll dive right in…
Immigrants yearning for new promise, safety, unrestricted opportunity – Maureen O’Reilly flees the grime and grit of her past life in Ireland, determined to give her sister Katie Rose rescue from a similar fate.
Socialite Olivia Wakefield finds it hard to breathe in the wake of her father’s passing. Refusing to accept the limitations and the “duties” of her gender and station, she longs to use her family name to continue a legacy of compassion, love, and making a difference in the lives of others.
Women disappearing from employment at a prestigious store, muddled practices at Ellis Island, underworld secrets teeming through everyday life…it can be difficult to know who to trust. Yet one group of women challenge themselves, their fears, their actions to see if change can come in small-yet-persistent hands, joining together.
Band of Sisters is a novel steeped in a real-world evil, a present pestilence and ongoing war. Cathy chose to set her novel in the early-immigration era of 1910. She begins across an ocean, in the land of Ireland, briefly setting a vital background for one of her main characters. Within the pages of the first chapter, I was drawn in – immediately attached to Maureen, one of the heroines I knew would only continue to unfurl in personality, in influence, in the labor of growth.
The second chapter leaps from the tattered stones of want shown in chapter one, to the high-ceiling comfort of a New York City dwelling. It is here we meet an equally important heroine, Olivia. The choice to use the first two chapters of this book to depict two ladies from starkly different backgrounds, experiences, and livelihoods, showed me a quality in Cathy’s writing ability that only grew my excitement to travel accompanied on the journey this story would take.
The underbelly, the seeping world this book details is the world of human trafficking. Prior to reading this novel, I read a bit about Cathy’s journey to get from the flow of ideas in her head, to the finished product that took on a life of its own – a tale insisting to be told – voices longing to be heard. This book may be fiction, her characters formed from her ideas, but this fight is real. This evil constant. These faces represent actual women who have stood in its realm for over a century whose outcries have tragically not been contained to a past horror, but still reverberate to this day. This story may have been set in 1910 and the years that passed, but Cathy minces no words through her women – their plight has yet to be over.
She shows struggle, courage like you cannot imagine, hatred, arrogance, unyielding compassion, the inability to give up, tenacity, love, ignorance and the power of knowledge. So much bursts through these 399 pages that when you are done, you will immediately know – there’s a place for you to join this band of sisters.
The characters are so incredibly rich. The plot lines never leave you bored or waiting for something to effect you, for something to happen. Every sentence lends itself to the whole. Every interaction between the characters grabs at you and hoarsely persists: “pay attention!! Something important is here.” I do not exaggerate. At least personally, I experienced this. Cathy paints each person – from the main characters, down to the intermittent, background characters in SUCH detail that you feel as if you can see them yourself. In front of you stands their persona, their personality. You can almost touch them. To the very last name, to the fewest-mentioned man and woman, you see them. It is supremely rare to meet an author who has that kind of power, that talent for rounding out every person crossing the page.
In all honesty, I could not put this book down. I devoured it’s sentences and weaving, interwoven stories. I read the book in less than three days . It could’ve been less if other commitments like work and family didn’t stand in the way. 🙂 Cathy is vivid, oh so vivid in her descriptions. From the beginning (really taking steam in chapter three) the reader is transported, feeling the effects of the scene, the tensions, the journey on the ship to Ellis Island. I felt the urgency in the immigration interviews, I felt the clutch of fear and love between Maureen and her sister as they first arrived in America. I felt as if I were standing behind Olivia at every turn as she fought to understand all that was happening in her world, and as she kept pushing for a way to make the world better, to use her hands as instruments of change and love.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is at the top of my list whenever someone asks for a new book to read. Sincerely. Cathy has found her fight in this all-too-present world of human trafficking and slavery. She makes the cry echo without end: Slavery still exists today! It’s happening here. In our country, in our boarders, and it is not quitting without people uniting to stop it. People who won’t give up until the captives are free.
I have contacts through the church
I attended in Massachusetts who are battling this terror with very real efforts, tightly bound hands in unison to end this nightmare. I long to dive deeper into this fray, as before I’ve only heard and prayed and become devastated in spirit at all I hear that occurs in this plight. I want to do more than feel, however. I want to act. I want to be presently participative. I have much fear for what that means. Fear for what I’ll see and how it will stay with me forever. Yet isn’t it meant to? Aren’t we supposed to see, hear, feel and do for one another? Isn’t that the command of the Body? May I take that command to heart! I realize it may only be one novel, one piece of fiction, but this book drew my awareness open – parted the curtains just enough to make me see that I wasn’t in light, I was sitting in darkness masquerading. This book was one step into open-eyed sight.
Read it. You will be changed. You will be touched.
Cathy, her never-ending research that brought her to this story, her persistence in telling a story so desperate to be heard, does a tremendous job. I encourage you to read more about her journey
to this book. Once you’re at her site, read more of her journal
to see how this book and her others have moved people across the nation to become involved. This topic is heavy on her heart and she writes to bring awareness. She writes to be obedient to the Spirit’s movement.
May we read and be equally stirred to move, to act, to obey where He’s leading us to join.
* Here are some select Q&As with the author, Cathy Gohlke!
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. Band of Sisters takes place in NYC. Do you think human trafficking is limited to large cities?
No. That is why raising awareness of the crime and education re. the methods used by traffickers is so important. Small, rural, isolated or poor communities are targets just as vulnerable as big cities. Traffickers often enter such communities with bogus offers of better jobs, modeling opportunities for young people, and offers for education. But those dreams are crushed when willing applicants are unwittingly sold as sex slaves or used for pornography, with no way to get back to their homes and families. In some cultures, once a girl has been so abused, she is no longer welcome to return to her family, thereby compounding the problem and sense of hopelessness. Education and understanding is desperately needed on all parts.
3. Issues of sex slavery and human trafficking are foreign to most of us and uncomfortable to discuss. How can Christians respond?
By speaking for those who have no voice. These are among the poor and needy of our day, in many cases the orphans that Jesus commanded us to care for.
We must remember that the discomfort is ours, and the desperate need is theirs. Being a Christian, a Christ follower, isn’t easy in a fallen world. Doing what Jesus did wasn’t easy or comfortable. He confronted demons and hypocrites. He stood against people who cared more about the monetary value of their livestock than they did about freeing one human being from demonic possession.
Jesus ate with “publicans and sinners” to the ruin of His reputation. Just as He is our example in loving one another and in protecting innocent young children, so He is our example in setting captives free, in loosening cords that bind, in rescuing women and children from prostitution, men from slavery.
In many countries of the world Christians pay with their lives for standing up for their faith and/or for protecting others. I’ve heard it said that only in America do we expect it to be easy to be a Christian. Talking about things that are uncomfortable to our sensibilities don’t seem so hard in comparison to the challenges our brothers and sisters in Christ face the world over.
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:
- Google “human trafficking” to learn what is happening in the world. –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 http://www.cathygohlke.com 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:
- Work directly with one of these organizations, either in this country or in a foreign country.
- Validate, affirm, encourage and engage girls or women who are at risk or in the process of healing.
- Welcome strangers into your church as part of the church family.
- Take a rescued victim into your home or provide housing.
- Mentor a victim, or a girl or woman at risk.
- Help a woman find safe and gainful employment and/or child care.
- Help a woman applying for a job find appropriate clothing.
- Provide childcare and/or transportation when needed.
- Tutor a student, young or not so young and encourage hopeful options.
- 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.
- Provide assistance for medical care—practical or financial.
- Speak up when others make slurring or disrespectful comments re. women, immigrants, homeless, etc.—attitudes must change to make change last.
- Do not patronize stores, hotels, sporting events or other venues where you believe women or children are trafficked.
- Provide legal counsel, assistance or finances for same for victims.
- Write or speak out against trafficking.
- Hold public figures and men within your circle of acquaintance accountable for their actions toward women and children.
- Be vocal and proactive about the need to raise a generation of men who will not exploit women and children.
- Be vocal that the only way trafficking will stop is to eliminate the demand for supply.
- Support legislation to stop trafficking, to prosecute and to re-educate predators.
- Write letters of support and concern to elected officials re. human trafficking.
- Contribute financial support to one of the organizations that is already in place and helping.
- Create and/or support films, documentaries, plays, or various art forms that raise awareness or needed funds.
- Fundraise for organizations that are helping.
- Help to educate publicly or privately those you know re. all of the above.
- Work with others to create new possibilities
- Most importantly, realize that while you can’t do everything, we can each do something. Together we will raise a symphony that must be heard.
~ I received this book for free from Tyndale House in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.