Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review ~ Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke

Maureen O'Reilly lives a life of rejection from the small Irish community in which she lives.  The shame that was forced upon her through no fault of her own and continues so that her, her mom and her sister can survive is something that is a huge burden that weighs on her constantly.  With the death of her mom and her sister facing the same future of a landlord forcing himself upon her, Maureen grabs the life line that her aunt gives her.  With money and a promise of a benefactor in New York who promised their father help if he came to America, Maureen and Katie Rose flee the harsh life they have.

But when they arrive at Ellis Island, it seems a harsh life is not to be evaded.  Their hoped-for wealthy benefactor has passed away and the family seems to feel no compulsion to help. In desperation Maureen feels she has to lie and cheat her way into a position at a major department store so that Ellis Island will release Katie Rose and not deport the two of them back to Ireland.  But things are not as they seem at the prestigious department store and Maureen becomes witness to events that puts her life in danger.  Girls are disappearing after being promoted "upstairs" and Maureen becomes frantic when it happens to one of her only friends.  To make matters worse, she suspects the very man who threw her out the door and onto the street when she went to the benefactor's home to introduce herself, as having a huge part in the disappearances.

Meanwhile Olivia Wakefield, daughter of the man Maureen was trying to contact, cannot forget about the red haired Irish immigrant who came knocking on her door one night.  Feeling a great deal of guilt and conviction over her brother in law rudely tossing the woman out onto the streets, Olivia sets things in motion to try and find her.  Finding evidence of a promise her father had made to the Irish girl's father it becomes imperative to Olivia to find the girl and honor that promise that was made.  While her society ladies group debates what their project of the year will be, the mutual reading of the book "In His Steps" by Charles Sheldon  spurs her on with even more motivation and  will change all their lives and the way they approach how to help those less fortunate than themselves.  The test of their faith comes when they are faced with deciding to help women who have been found themselves forced into white slavery.

This was an excellent story that delved into the extreme poverty of the immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island with nothing and the harshness of life after they landed in the country that was supposed to offer them hope and a better life.  The author also delves into the subject of "white slavery", the human trafficking of women and children for the purpose of prostitution.  In introducing the the society ladies of the story to the book "In His Steps" the author presents the argument that only when we all ask ourselves "What would Jesus do?" and then following through with each of our individual answers to that question will any of sociey's problems, whether it is human trafficking today or poverty or homelessness, etc., be truly dealt with.  Which is a position that I heartily agree with.  I found the story challenging to me personally and it has given me the desire to reread "In His Steps" once again.  It is a book written, I believe, approximately a hundred years ago but still has immense significance and relevance for today and is still, not surprisingly, popular and should be a staple read for every Christian.

 I loved the development of the main characters and how each had to face their own beliefs, whether it was facing their shame and believing that God could actually love them, or in facing their fears and going against societal pressures to actually live out what each felt God called them to do to make a difference.  I loved the female characters who were able to be strong in the face of insurmountable danger.  The story keeps you turning the pages.  The author with this story has laid out a great read and a great challenge for the reader.


Faith said...

This book is sooo much like Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin!!!! same type of book....leaving Ireland because of something shameful/harmful to a sister and entering America via Ellis Island. Because it is so similar I probably wouldn't read this one although it sounds good like the Austin book!! I love historical fiction!!

Sandra said...

This sounds like a good book :)

Oh and Coeur d'Alene is GORGEOUS, you would love it :)

Beckie B. said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this book. It sounds like something I would really enjoy. I am currently reading Almost to Eden about an Irish immigrant who works at Jekyll Island in Georgia. It won the Georgia book award for 1st novel in 2011. Good so far, if not a bit predictable.