I was so excited to be given the opportunity to review this book! As a huge fan of historical fiction, this book was exactly the type of thing I look for, and Cathy Gohlke does historical fiction brilliantly. To research this particular subject- early 20th century immigration and human trafficking- Gohlke traveled to Ellis Island and toured the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, as well as explored the Lower East Side itself. Her dedicated research paid off with rich detail and vivid imagery. I was able to clearly picture the main character, Maureen O'Reilly, and her sister's journey from their tiny village in County Meath, Ireland, to their first steps on Ellis Island. Their American experience starts out bad and just gets worse for them both. Maureen must leave her sister at Ellis Island in quarantine with the chicken pox and do whatever it takes to ensure they both aren't deported for being single women. Her desperation leads her into more danger than she fled Ireland from. When she notices her young female coworkers start going missing from their department store jobs, Maureen knows something wicked must be going on and is recruited to help take down a ring of human traffickers. Band of Sisters is a page turner to the very end.
I received this book for review by Tyndale Publishing without compensation. All opinions are my own.
Author Q&A- Cathy Gohlke:
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?”
In Band of Sisters your characters maintain that the answer to human trafficking is found in the question, “What would Jesus do?” What do you mean by that and how does that question impact this modern-day crisis?
In recounting the things Jesus taught, and in thinking about the life He modeled, I realized that He has already given us the answers. It is only for us to employ them.
* Open His hand and His heart to those society spurns—not only to receive those who come to Him, but He would go out and search for and engage them, as when He ate with publicans and sinners, as when He called Zacchaeus from the tree.
* He would provide medical help, as when He healed the woman with the issue of blood, the man born blind, the paraplegic let down through a roof, and countless others.
* He would not hesitate to confront the darkest of the dark in order to free victims—the things and people and forces we’d rather not see or deal with, as when He drove demons from the young man, and from Mary Magdalene.
* He would open His purse strings, even His home to the needy as when He commanded us to provide for widows and orphans, as when hounded by Herod, he personally demonstrated the helpless plight and needed solutions for refugees.
* He would expect that those who could provide financially for this ministry and need would do so, just as He accepted gifts from those able to finance His ministry.
* He would protect lives and argue for victims legally—even those who’d made mistakes society deems unforgivable, as He did for the woman taken in adultery—the woman in danger of being stoned.
* He would accept the thanks of and stand for those who looked to Him for answers. * He would maintain relationship with them, even when they were misunderstood by society, as He did for the woman who anointed His feet.
* He would hold to account those who victimize others, as He did when He declared that for anyone who makes one of His little ones to stumble it would be better if a millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea.
* He would raise awareness and educate society to be on guard against this evil as much as any evil, to be vigilant, to accept responsibility to change, to train children to love God and care for and respect one another, just as He taught them everyday of His life.
* He would advocate for the human dignity and worth of all people, women included, as He did when He breached society’s laws by allowing the unclean woman, desperately hoping for healing, to touch Him, when He reached out to the Samaritan woman, who lived with a man not her husband, and when He died on a cross in our place.
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.
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.
How does your faith impact your writing?
My faith is part and parcel of all I do. While writing my first novel I learned that I cannot divide the heart God knit inside me, cannot separate what I write from http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifhow I live in response to Him.
That’s when I began praying, not just that the Lord would lay on my heart a “story,” but that He would lay on my heart His “purpose,” and a story to illuminate that purpose. Later I understood that “purpose” is what is known in writing circles as a “strong moral premise.”
To find out more about Cathy Gohlke and to learn more about how you can help in the fight againt human trafficking, please visit her website HERE.