Band of Sisters–Fork in the Road

I’d planned to write a historical novel about female immigrants of the late 1800s who were hounded by traffickers lurking near Castle Garden, New York—gateway to the New World—and members of the settlement house movement who came to their aid.  I was particularly taken with a feisty little Manhattan woman who took on the rogues with her umbrella!

I’d planned to include the history of Jacob Riis, his exposé of the extreme poverty found in New York City, and crusade for change through rousing the social conscience of his time.  But while I was busy making plans to tell a story, the Lord shaped a vision to ignite a cause dear to my heart.

I discovered that my literary agent, Natasha Kern, shared my passion for helping women and children caught in modern-day slavery.  I learned that my editor, Stephanie Broene, was fascinated by Ellis Island and the immigrants who’d poured through those doors.  And I learned through crusaders and research that today, in this twenty-first century, there are far more people trapped in bondage, more people exploited and enslaved in every way, than at the height of the transatlantic slave trade.

Remembering a challenge my son once made (“Why don’t you write about a current need?”), but without a story, I drove to New York and sailed on the earliest morning ferry to Ellis Island.  I read everything I could beg or buy, took dozens of photographs, asked innumerable questions, and left on the last ferry of the day.  I spent two days at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and three days trekking through the Lower East Side, taking multiple tours, loading my bag with books and emptying my wallet of their purchase price, in search of a story.

There were fascinating accounts at every turn, but none that bore my name, none that connected with the growing frustration in my spirit over the gross injustices I discovered—those taking place today and those recorded in the pages of history.  The problem of human trafficking simply loomed too big.  It was not enough to state the dilemma, to paint a picture of grief—there had to be an answer, at least the beginnings of an answer.

And that answer is what the Lord showed me—through a journey I’d not imagined.  Band of Sisters 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?  My original story idea wouldn’t—couldn’t—have answered that question.

Sometimes the Lord presents us with a fork in our road.  It’s not that the road we’ve been traveling is the wrong road.  It’s just that the purpose of that road may have been to lead us to the fork–the place where we may choose, or not, to change course, just enough to lead us somewhere new and to an adventure we could not have imagined . . . a journey requiring faith, and perhaps a few twists and turns in our road.

Are you at a fork in your road?  Are you ready for adventure?

I look forward to sharing more of my journey to Band of Sisters with you in the coming weeks, and would love to hear about your forks–and the places they lead you!

For breakfast I’ve made pancakes with fresh peaches and blueberries—two of the wondrous fruits of summer.  I’ll pass you the maple syrup and a steaming cup of coffee, or a cup of mango tea, if that’s your pleasure.  Let’s sit on the patio and talk this lovely morning!

Looking forward to seeing you here, in the garden, next week.

God’s blessings for you,

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  • Hi Cathy –

    This often happens to me when I’m writing a non-fiction piece. I think I’m going in one direction only to take an interesting detour.

    I love blueberry pancakes! Mind if I pull up a chair?

    Susan 🙂

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      I just experienced this while writing a guest blog–had to go back and divide it into two separate blogs, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!

      Yes, please pull up a chair, Susan! I’ll put on the coffee pot!

      God’s blessings for you!

  • Leigh Kay says:

    Hello Cathy,

    I am simply honored and I came right over because I wanted to thank you. I just signed up to become a Tyndale review blogger, and your book was the first I chose. I received it in the mail today and I am overcome in delighted anticipation to begin this journey – and to begin it with your novel.
    You write about a very real threat to our world. One that has a deep-set root in our history, and an ugly and horrific reality of our present as well. Thank you for choosing this topic to bring awareness to. I haven’t cracked open the delicate binding to begin reading, but I will tomorrow. My review is set to come out in September for Tyndale’s blogging network. I am simply thankful that I get to be a part of this, and that your work is what I get to begin with.

    Have a wonderful day full of blessing. Thank you again for writing.

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      How wonderful to meet you, Leigh! I’m honored that you chose “Band of Sisters” to begin your journey in reviewing Tyndale books. I hope you enjoy it, and pray that you’re inspired through the story.

      You’re right–human trafficking is a horrific reality in our world. I’m encouraged that writers and others are raising awareness, that people from all walks of life are fighting for abolition. The need is great. God bless you for sharing the urgency!

  • I have learned so much since I became a reviewer and I thank God for giving me this wonderful opportunity!
    Tyndale kindly forewarded your book announcement and I hope readers will join me in reading Band of Sisters! It promises to be good, I just feel it!
    All the best,

    • Cathy Gohlke says:

      Thank you for your email, Noelle! I’m delighted that you chose to read “Band of Sisters”–hope very much that you enjoy it and are inspired!

      God’s blessings for you!

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