Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Review of Band of Sisters

Here's a description of the book from the author's website:

"Maureen O’Reilly and her younger sister flee Ireland in hopes of claiming the life promised their father over twenty years before.

But after surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their NYC benefactor, Colonel Wakefield, has died, and 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 façade 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, who Olivia sees 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 that might bring?"

My Review

After reading Promise Me This and now Band of Sisters, I have to say that Cathy Gohlke has set a very high standard for well-written, well-researched historical fiction with powerful heart. Her passion and depth of feeling are evident in the pages, but the emotions never wreak havoc with her amazing storytelling talents. With a whole band of flawed, hurting, wonderful characters, Band of Sisters is a mosaic masterpiece.

With an omniscient narrator, the story is told from various points of view, showing that the difficulties and horrors faced by one person or group of persons can affect many others - and should evoke the compassion and care of many more. But the story isn't bogged down by those multiple views, as it is mostly Maureen who carries the plot through, in more ways than one.

Maureen O'Reilly has nothing to lose by leaving behind the shambles of her life in Ireland, and the best protection of her younger sister's future seems to lie in America. But every step toward freedom seems to fall away, and her claims on hope are burned before her eyes. The hardships pile up, and the initial struggle to survive is replaced by more dreadful realities that seem too terrible to be faced...

Can grace that was once extended be offered again? Can love that followed Maureen to America follow her into deeper dangers? And can men and women of different classes and backgrounds come together to seek God's will and live out Jesus' love to others - even when the hurt becomes personal?

One character in this book challenges her sister, "What would Jesus do with this gift of writing, this God-given love of writing? What would He write?" It is inspiring to see the author live out this challenge through this story, as addressed in the author's note at the end. Band of Sisters is rather long, rather dark, and rather sad in many way - not light reading by any means - and yet it is lovingly constructed and certainly meaningful, challenging the reader as it challenges the characters. A meaty and grand book!

*With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*

About the Author

"Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award–winning author of 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. Her newest book, Promise Me This, was released February 1, 2012.  Her next book, Band of Sisters, will release September, 2012.

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 Maryland."

Learn more about Cathy on her lovely website!

You can buy Band of Sisters now at


Rel Mollet said...

I loved Cathy's Promise Me This so great to hear Band of Sisters offers more of the same complex and challenging writing!

Great review, Amber :)

Amber Holcomb said...


Oh, I loved Promise Me This, too! Although it was one of those love-hate relationships at times, where I really wanted to throw the book or something, LOL!

And yes, Band of Sisters is more of Cathy's great storytelling. :) I like the way you describe it: "complex and challenging." While I think Promise Me This is more inspiring and encouraging, I think Band of Sisters is more challenging.

I'm curious about her first two Civil War era books... I'm sure they're amazing, too! And I'm curious to see what Cathy writes next! :)

Anyway, thank you for reading my review - I'm glad you liked it!


A Cooking Bookworm said...

'...a mosaic masterpiece.'

Wow. Good! ;-)

Great review and yes, great author!

Amber Holcomb said...

A Cooking Bookworm,

Thank you! ;) Plenty of inspiration for writing reviews when the book is like this one!


Cathy Gohlke said...

Thank you, Amber, for this wonderful review of "Band of Sisters." Researching and writing it was quite a journey. Thankfully, my own band of sisters prayed me through it.

I love reading a writer's heart when they review a book, and you've share your heart today. God's blessings for you and your writing!

Amber Holcomb said...


You're quite welcome! I imagine the research and writing must have been really difficult with such a painful, tragic topic... But I'm so glad you persevered through the prayers of friends and published such a powerful story!

Thank you so much for your encouragement, as well, and I'm glad you liked the review! :)

God bless you, too!


Kav said...

Beautiful review, Amber. I am sooooo anxious to read this book -- especially now after reading your review.

Amber Holcomb said...


Thank you! I think you'll love this book, in the sense that the cast of characters is amazing, and the story is powerful. I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on it when you finish!