Olivia/ Kate – Band of Sisters
Band of Sisters
by Lauren Willig
Publication date: March 2, 2021 by William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: Kate 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, Olivia 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
A scholarship girl from Brooklyn, Kate Moran thought she found a place among Smith’s Mayflower descendants, only to have her illusions dashed the summer after graduation. When charismatic alumna Betsy Rutherford delivers a rousing speech at the Smith College Club in April of 1917, looking for volunteers to help French civilians decimated by the German war machine, Kate is too busy earning her living to even think of taking up the call. But when her former best friend Emmeline Van Alden reaches out and begs her to take the place of a girl who had to drop out, Kate reluctantly agrees to join the new Smith College Relief Unit.
Four months later, Kate and seventeen other Smithies, including two trailblazing female doctors, set sail for France. The volunteers are armed with money, supplies, and good intentions—all of which immediately go astray. The chateau that was to be their headquarters is a half-burnt ruin. The villagers they meet are in desperate straits: women and children huddling in damp cellars, their crops destroyed and their wells poisoned.
Despite constant shelling from the Germans, French bureaucracy, and the threat of being ousted by the British army, the Smith volunteers bring welcome aid—and hope—to the region. But can they survive their own differences? As they cope with the hardships and terrors of the war, Kate and her colleagues find themselves navigating old rivalries and new betrayals which threaten the very existence of the Unit.
With the Germans threatening to break through the lines, can the Smith Unit pull together and be truly a band of sisters?
Lauren Willig’s newest title is a true tour de force. This book is so different from her other works but yet Willig ensures that several characters have all the humor and sass that one would expect. Readers will experience a roller coaster of emotions with this one. Willig captures and relates the essence of what it feels like when you don’t quite fit in. She masterfully transcribes how relationships formed in school continually influence each individual throughout their lives. So many women had to redefine their roles during the war and the group from Smith College was no different. What was remarkable is that they weren’t content with the status quo, They wanted to ensure that they weren’t simply addressing a momentary need but were creating ways for people to rebuild and sustain themselves after their losses. There were women of the group who weren’t able to adapt and there were those who blossomed in the new and stressful environment. Relationships were redefined and strengthened. Acceptance of oneself and love for others is a resounding theme. The sacrifices of all of those who volunteered is exemplified within the pages of this book. A beautifully well written story.
I received an advance copy of the title via NetGalley and the publisher.
I loved this book so much! Even though I have finished, the story and the characters have stayed with me and I think of it often. A tale of courage, adventure and self discovery, Band of Sisters is a must read. Based on a little known true story, and told from the point of view of Kate and Emmie, it is character heavy at first but it doesn’t take long to get everyone sorted out. While it started a bit slow for me but I was quickly caught up in their adventures, trials and triumphs. Their bravery, working just miles from the front of WWI in France, was amazing and inspiring.
This was the first book I’ve read by Lauren Willig and it won’t be the last.
Thank you to NetGalley and Lauren Willig and William Morrow Books for allowing me to read this book. I received an advance copy and I share this review voluntarily.