Reviewed by Julia Reffner
Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke
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"Historical detail is lush and evocative and keeps the reader riveted. High conflict keeps the reader turning page after page, breathless at the ending and wishing there were more pages to turn."
As I turned the final pages of the beautifully written historical Band
of Sisters, I was not at all surprised that Gohlke is a two-time Christy
winner. I was only surprised I had never before picked up a book by Gohlke,
who has quickly made a new fan.
Maureen O’Reilly is a house servant in Ireland, branded with a reputation in the town and buried in the shame of her own sins and the sins of others against her. When her mother dies, Maureen fears for the life and reputation of herself…and even more for her beloved younger sister, Katie Rose. Katie’s Aunt Verna stitches coins in each of their dresses and Maureen and Katie Rose find their way to the docks after weeks of waiting for a ship to take them into the New York Harbor.
En route with them is the handsome Joshua Keeton, entrusted to keep his eye on them. Maureen spurns his advances, the men around her have often shown less than pure motives. Why should this case be any different.
The girls exit the ship at Ellis Island a bit worse for the wear. Katie Rose is ill and must stay behind with the nurses while Maureen continues on to find housing and work. Her letter of recommendation is several decades old and doesn’t hold much weight with the inspectors at Ellis Island. A bit of cash dashed her way by a gentleman who sounds like he is from her own county and claims to want to help other immigrants helps her to get through inspection and lay claim on a dank apartment above a saloon…but at what cost?
Meanwhile Olivia Wakefield lives on a palatial estate. She and her church friends read Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps and it changes their activism in the city. Instead of merely taking up causes why not approach every situation asking what Jesus would do? How will her promise intersect with Maureen and Katie Rose’s lives? And what can be done about the larger problems of injustice and white slavery in New York?
Band of Sisters contains all the elements of a great story in all the right proportions. The two romances in the story are tender and fraught with complications. Gohlke even deals with the sometimes painful circumstances of singleness. Historical detail is lush and evocative and keeps the reader riveted. High conflict keeps the reader turning page after page, breathless at the ending and wishing there were more pages to turn. Gohlke deals well with sensitive issues without dragging the reader through the muck as is sometimes the case in fiction. A spiritual topic that may have been cliche was made fresh and alive in its original context.
I can’t wait to read more from award-winning Cathy Gohlke.
Reffner is blessed to be a servant to the King,
married to the love of her life, a busy homeschool mom of two young children,
and owned by one
shedding longhaired cat. She is enjoying working on a women’s fiction novel
in her spare time. She is a reviewer for Historical
Novels Review quarterly,
a magazine of the Historical
Novel Society. Julia can be found blogging about
God, literature and life at Dark
Glass Ponderings and about writing at the group
blog, The Writer's Alley.