Maureen O'Reilly and her younger sister flee Ireland in hope of claiming the life promised to their father over twenty years before. After surviving the rigors of Ellis Island, Maureen learns that their benefactor, Colonel Wakefield, has died. 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 facade hides a secret that threatens every vulnerable woman in the city.
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When their mother dies, Maureen and her sister Katie Rose escape a dangerous future in Ireland and come to New York, where an old family friend awaits. But the friend has died and the girls are turned away by the friend's family. Maureen finds work at a department store that hides a secret, and she must figure out what to do.
I found this book very good and an interesting read. Like the author's previous book (Promise Me This), it is full of detail and adventure.
Maureen O'Reilly has submitted to the abuse of her landlord for many years, for the sake of her mother and sister's wellbeing. But when her mother dies and it becomes apparent that the landlord's son has his eye on Maureen's thirteen-year-old sister, Katie Rosie, Maureen conspires to escape their clutches once and for all. With just a few coins to their name and a decade-old letter from their father's friend in New York, the sisters leave Ireland in the hope of a new, better life in the United States. But when they arrive on Ellis Island, finding employment and accommodation isn't as easy as the women expected. Katie Rose is detained on the island until her chicken pox has passed, and Maureen is left to search for their father's old friend, Colonel Wakefield. But the Colonel is no longer living, and his son-in-law wants nothing to do with Maureen or her family. With the help of some money lent by a stranger and a woman from the local missionary society, Maureen is able to get a job in a department store and rent a room in a decrepit tenement building. Katie Rose is less than impressed with their living conditions when she's allowed to enter New York, but that's the least of Maureen's worries right now.
Girls from the department store keep disappearing, apparently "promoted" to a better place of employment, but something about their disappearances doesn't feel right, especially as they seem to be linked to the mysterious stranger who lent Maureen money on Ellis Island. The mystery becomes even more confusing when Maureen is brought into contact with Olivia Wakefield, the daughter of their father's old friend. Despite her brother-in-law's disdain for Maureen and her sister, Olivia is determined to help the women. But Maureen is hesitant, especially when Olivia's brother-in-law, Drake, appears to mixed up in the disappearances at the department store. Does Olivia really want the best for Maureen and Katie Rose, or is something more sinister bubbling under the surface?
The initial synopsis for Band of Sisters gave little of the plot away, which made it all the more appealing and intriguing. By the time I got around to reading the novel, several months after I'd first heard of it, I'd forgotten much of the synopsis and expected it to be merely a light romance about two sisters who emigrated to the United States looking for a fresh start. I haven't read many novels about European émigrés at the turn of the twentieth century, although I studied the topic enough in high school history classes. But my studies often stopped when the families left their homeland, and prior to reading Band of Sisters, I hadn't realised how difficult it was to even make it into the United States, let alone find a job or accommodation. Cathy's details regarding the rigours of Ellis Island inspections made me quite fearful for Maureen and Katie Rose, and the descriptions of their accommodation were also realistically portrayed. My only complaint about the details of Maureen's arrival in New York would have to be that it seemed remarkably easy for her to forge her application form at Darcy's Department Store , and get a job on the day she applied. I know that she used the Wakefield name to her advantage, but I did wonder whether the manager or owner of the store wouldn't have contacted the Wakefields to verify Maureen's story. Considering all the factors conspiring against her, getting a job so easily didn't seem entirely realistic.
I was surprised, yet pleasantly so, at the dark turn Band of Sisters took once Maureen was established in her job at the department store. Maureen fled Ireland because she had been forced to prostitute her body to her landlord in order to stop her mother and sister from being evicted, but she hadn't been aware of how easy it was for many single, newly emigrated women in New York to be forced into selling their bodies for the exact same reasons. Maureen's determination to save herself and her sister from the plight that awaited them back in Ireland was commendable, as was her desire to protect other women in the same position. But as Maureen delved deeper into the disappearances at her workplace, Band of Sisters challenged my assumptions about prostitution. It's easy to assume that women are forced into this profession - both then and now - by desperation and reduced circumstances, but how often do we really consider those who truly are forced into the occupation, and are unable to fight back and escape? I genuinely didn't expect this to be a novel about human trafficking, but the hidden subject seems appropriate, considering how human trafficking is something that is essentially hidden in plain view, both in Darcy's department store in 1900 and in our seemingly modern, civilised lives today.
I'm torn over how I feel about Katie Rose's treatment of Maureen. Part of me doesn't want to believe that she would reject her sister because of the assumptions made about Maureen's character back in Ireland. Although their community rejected Maureen because of her involvement with her landlord (despite many of them knowing that her "involvement" was never Maureen's choice and was forced upon her repeatedly), I felt that Katie Rose should have been more sympathetic to everything Maureen had done to protect their family. But, on the other hand, I could understand the jealousy that fuelled Katie Rose's anger at her sister. Maureen's beauty appears to attract many men - both a friend from Ireland and a man involved in the trafficking ring - despite her ruined character, while no one is interested in the innocent, pure Katie Rose. Thus, Katie Rose has to assume that these men are only interested in Maureen because of her lack of morals and willingness to be promiscuous. Although Katie Rose's logic is incredibly flawed, I can see where she's coming from, having not long ago been a teenage girl myself and been jealous of my classmates who were able to attract boys with their feminine wiles while I remained perpetually single. While it's easy to judge Katie Rose, as an outsider to the story, I couldn't help but wonder whether I would have taken her side if I'd been in her position. Is it any wonder we're not sympathetic enough to women trapped in prostitution if we make these assumptions of women with "loose morals"?
Olivia Wakefield played a larger part in this story than I initially expected, and it was interesting to see how she lived in comparison to Maureen and Katie Rose. I'm sure many readers will relate to Olivia's desire to help the less fortunate but genuinely not being able to understand their struggles enough to truly provide any assistance. Although some of Olivia's friends might seem naive or snobbish in their assumptions and suggestions, I'm sure there are many middle-class women's church groups today that aren't too different from the one that Olivia attended. I'd never heard of Charles Sheldon's In His Steps before reading Band of Sisters, but I appreciated the way that his book made its way into the lives of all the women in the novel and helped them to focus their actions as Jesus would have. Although the repetition of the phrase "What would Jesus do?" continually made me think of those wristbands that were popular in my youth group a few years ago, it really is something that everyone needs to consider more often. I hope this is a message that readers take away from Band of Sisters.
Band of Sisters certainly gave me a lot to think about, and I was sad when the book finally came to an end. It was the sort of story that I wanted to savour, even though I rushed through it in my desire to see Maureen and Olivia achieve their goals and receive their much-earned happy endings. While the story had a few small flaws, I hope that many readers are able to appreciate Band of Sisters and come out of the book as challenged as I was. 4.5*
A heart wrenching journey, that asks the question: What would Jesus do?
After the death of Lady Catherine, Maureen O'Riley finds herself without protection from her horrible employer, and she worries about her young sister, Kate, being left alone and all the moments when she can't protect her. So she heads to America with her sister and a 28 year old letter promising a future. But when they arrive Colonel Wakefield is dead and Maureen finds a job at what she supposes to be a upscale department store, but what she doesn't know is that it holds a terrible secret... Olivia Wakefield is determined to help Maureen and Kate, and keep the promise that her father made to their father, but she can't find Maureen...
Wow, what a book! I really enjoyed Promise Me This so I was looking forward to reading Band of Sisters, and it lived up to my expectations. I thought that it started a bit slow, with everything happening so fast to Maureen and Kate, that it was hard to actually get into the story for awhile. But when I got to Olivia's part of the story, I liked her immediately, she had an admirable determination to do the right thing and change peoples' lives.
To be honest I didn't become completely involved in the story until about 1/3 of the way in, that was the point where I had a hard time putting it down :) I liked how this book dealt with the tough issue of Human Trafficking, in a compelling and heart wrenching story.
I liked the character of Olivia the most, because of how determined she was to right a wrong. Joshua Keeton was a great character too, such a nice guy! I did eventually come to like Maureen and Kate though both of them did frustrate me more than a few times over the course of the book!
Overall an excellent read, though it scared me a little in the beginning when I wasn't really sure if I would like it or not! But I loved it. This book was tough and it asked the age old question of: What would Jesus do? I just loved how that was woven into the story in such a thought provoking manner. A fulfilling and satisfying read, that will break your heart for all the right reasons.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
I loved this story, and the pages almost turned themselves. We begin in County Meath Ireland, not far from Dublin where the O'Reilly sister's [Maureen and Katie Rose] have just buried their Mother. Their Dear Aunt, their Mother's sister, loves them and helps them with some money to leave Ireland and come to the US. Their adventure has begun!! Along with them immigrating is a young fellow they know named Joshua Keenan, who Maureen does not trust. She actually doesn't trust anyone, and is trying to take care of her thirteen year old sister. What the sister's do have is a letter from Colonel Wakefield, stating he wants to set her Dad's son in business. He is indebted to him for saving his life! When Maureen goes to his home she finds that he has died and is crulely turned away by Drake Meitland, who burns her letter. Now Maureen's is penniless and without home or job. She does have a friend in Mrs Melkford, from the Missionary Aid Society, she is Heaven sent. Maureen also met a shady character, she could tell by his smile, Jamie Flynn, who thrust $30 at her and tells her where she can obtain a job. After what has happened she goes and gets a clerking job at Darcy's Department Store. When things start to not add up and some of her friends begin to go missing, she doesn't know what to do. Olivia Wakefield and her Sister Dorothy belong to a Church Group to help people. They decide to read In His Step's by Charles Sheldon, "What Would Jesus Do". Olivia also attempts to find anything she can in her Dad's paper's about the O'Reilly's. In the end she tries to find Maureen and Katie Rose. I found Katie Rose to not be very endearing...like a spoiled brat, but considering the poverty they came from in Ireland, and what they are now experiencing in the US, I kind of understand. We are about to journey to the dark underground of life in the US...White Slavery. Cathy Gohlke has worked this subject into this story in such a way that it touches today's current problems. While I could not put this book down until the end, some of the injustice is still happening. I would love to able to sit down and be with these strong woman, and find out what happens in later life.
I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers, and was not required to give a positive review.
I was so excited to read 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.
Cathy Gohlke is a master of powerful stories- after reading Promise Me This, I knew Band of Sisters was not going to be a fluffy, frivolous read. As it deals with such a tough subject, this really is not the best book for younger readers, but it is a powerful wake-up call to all of us. Band of Sisters is divided into two parts; I like the second half best. For the first half, I found Maureen a bit annoying. She had had such a hard, unforgiving life and I don’t blame her for her mistrust of men. All the same, I felt she was extremely bitter and stubborn, and frankly, hard to like. This is why I like the second half- she’s finally decided to trust. Instead of doubting everyone, the characters have started to realize what’s going on around them and what they need to do to stop it.
Olivia was entirely different than Maureen, and much more likable. Katie Rose, Maureen’s sister, was SO stubborn- that is a trait she and Maureen definitely shared. In part 1 of the book, I didn’t blame her. Personally, I felt her anger at her sister was in some ways justified, as Maureen was not being entirely honest in explaining to Katie Rose what was going on, and I was angry at her, too! However, after Maureen told Katie Rose what was going on, and then Katie Rose blamed Maureen for it, well, my frustration shifted subjects. The book did, of course, reach a highly satisfactory conclusion.
Overall, I felt Band of Sisters achieved what I believe the author set out to do- expose the terrible crime of human trafficking that is still going on today.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
1910 Ireland. As Maureen and Katie Rose O'Reilley climb the muddy path up the hillside to cemetery where her mother is to buried the women attending the burial shun Maureen. Even though Maureen had been raped and brutally used by her landlord Lord Orthbridge the women still treated her like a harlot. With her mother's passing she did not know how she was to protect her young sister from her landlord's desires and abuse. She heard rumored that his young son is already after Katie Rose's skirt tales.
After the funeral Maureen's Aunt Verna unfurls a plan to get Maureen and Katie Rose out of Ireland, but they must move quickly with the plan. Her aunt tells of a close friend of Maureen's long deceased father that had sent money to have her father and his family to come to America and become his business partner. Colonel Wakefield saw O'Reilly as a brother and his children as his own. Maureen's aunt still has the money . She gives the money along with a letter from Wakefield to Maureen for the girls to make the trip to America so they will be safe with Colonel Wakefield.
The arriving at Ellis Island! Joshua Keeton, a young man in her village, is about Maureen's age and has already made plans to go to America. Her aunt has arranged for the girls to travel to America with him. As soon as they get to the shipyard Maureen refuses any more of his assistance and takes her sister in hand to travel the voyage to America alone. She trusts no one! Especially men!
Katie Rose ends up catching Chicken Pox is held at the infirmary at Ellis Island until to gets well and Maureen must find residents and employment before they will approve her release. She fears they will be returned to Ireland.
She lucks out and has been given some assistance by a lady of the Missionary Aid Society to get her the proper clothes and make sure she has a place to stay and employment.
When she arrives at Colonel Wakefield's she is rudely treated by a man that claims the Colonel is deceased and that she has no claim to the family and he burns her letter in the fireplace and boots the screaming Maureen out the door like a piece of trash.
But as this was happening Olivia daughter of Colonel Wakefield was disgusted by the way her brother-in-law Drake had treated the young women in Olivia's home. He had no right no right at all. She must find this woman so she can find out what kind of connection she has with her father. She will not stop until she finds the poor women. Her guest, Curtis Morrow witnessed this event and promised to do what he could to help find the O'Reilley woman.
It just keeps getting worse for Maureen. Will she be able to find employment? Will poor Katie Rose be sent back to Ireland?
The author wrote a wonderful story of the plight of immigrant women in New York that are just arriving at Ellis Island. Any lone woman was at the mercy of evil men as soon as they stepped foot on American soil. Tricking the women into thinking they could be trusted to help them find employment and a place to stay. There were women being accosted for white slavery and forced to work in brothels and on the streets.
The chances of getting a decent job was minimal. If money was sparse then so was food and shelter. The character of Olivia Wakefield was a woman that was determined to fight for the protection and the rights of these women and against white slavery.
I knew things back then were difficult for women but I really had no idea it was that bad. I want to thank the author for opening my eyes. It has given me so much love and respect for the women that fought the long hard battle for women's rights and eventually won.
I devoured the information she provided in the question and answers she so graciously shared with us. I am eager to do more research on this subject. I am of Irish decent and know my ancestors went through Ellis Island. I have taken this story very personally. I thank Cathy for bringing to to my attention.
I highly recommend this book!
Disclosure I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for review. I was in no way compensated for this review. It is my own opinion.
Band of Sisters, crafted by Cathy Gohlke, reads like a thrilling movie. There are echoes of the film Far and Away but this book has a razor sharp edge. The main character, Maureen O'Reilly, is independent and fiesty- even hard at times. She carries a past that she fears will haunt her forever. Maureen and her sister, Katie Rose, flee to America in hopes of starting a new life, but there are perils that await them there, too. Not all is as seems and soon Maureen is caught in a web of secrets and treachery. She gains employment at an elegant department store but soon discovers that coworkers are disappearing. What has happened to them and why does no one seem to care? Not wanting to endanger any of her friends, Maureen is left to turn to God, who she felt left her long ago.
Band of Sisters is a story that I never wanted to end. It was exciting, romantic, even frightening at times. The characters were so real I wanted to cast them! Emma Stone would play Maureen, Joshua would be played by Ryan Reynolds, Ashley Greene would be Katie Rose, and Ian Somerhalder would be Drake (a villain you love to hate!). I'll get back to you on the rest of the cast.:)
Let me leave you with this thought. Band of Sisters will make you think, make you feel and stay with you long after the last page. The book addresses the theme of white slavery and sadly it's alive and well in this day and age. Band of Sisters entertains, inspires and educates. Bravo, Cathy Gohlke!
After their mother‘s death, Maureen O’Reilly and her sister Katie Rose flee Ireland under cover of darkness. Childhood friend Joshua Keeton aids their escape, and they land on Ellis Island with grand hopes of a better life in America. Their arrival is less than joyous, however, as thirteen-year-old Katie Rose is ill. To make matters worse, Maureen learns that their stateside benefactor has passed away. Fearful of deportation, a desperate Maureen lands a job at a department store under false pretenses.
Olivia Wakefield, the daughter of the O’Reilly’s late benefactor, struggles in the wake of her father’s death. She resists the pressure to marry well and maintain a façade of happiness among the upper echelon of 1910 society. Keeping up appearances pales in comparison to what she believes God has called her to do. Upon discovering her father’s connection to the O’Reilly family, Olivia sets out to help Maureen and Katie Rose.
Maureen and Olivia inadvertently discover that the department store where Maureen works is a front for illegal activity. Concerned for Katie Rose’s safety, and unsure of Olivia’s motives, Maureen turns to Joshua for help. Olivia, frustrated with Maureen’s distrust, seeks help from Curtis Morrow, her brother in law’s new business partner. An elaborate plan unfolds, and loyalties are tested beyond what Maureen and Olivia ever imagined.
Will Maureen and Olivia successfully battle the illegal underground network that has spread into New York’s polite society? Can either trust the men set in their path, and perhaps find a future with them? I won’t say any more, lest I spoil this wonderful story of adventure and redemption.
Band of Sisters addresses social injustice that was not only common during the early 20th century, but also one that plagues us today. Cathy discreetly brings light and life to the issue through this suspenseful and compelling tale. Her stirring and heartwarming story had me from beginning to end – I give Band of Sisters, her fourth novel, two thumbs up.
Band of Sisters, by Cathy Gohlke, brings to light the horrors white slavery long ago. Gohlke tells the story in such a way that the reader must wonder how such conditions could exist then as well as in the modern day.
Maureen O’Reilly travels to America with her sister, spurning the protection of family friend, Joshua Keeton. When they arrive, however, her sister has contracted chicken pox and is quarantined, and Maureen is left to find lodging and employment on her own. She ends up working in what she thinks is a reputable department store, but things begin to look frightening when she notices her co-workers disappearing. Joshua finds himself employed to protect the O’Reilly sisters, and they both become heavily involved in the exposure of the crime ring. Meanwhile, Olivia Wakefield and her friends try to determine what Jesus would have them do to help.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It effectively brought to light the plight of those caught in slavery rings. It challenges all of us to ask what Jesus would have us to aid in the situation today.
I would recommend this book to all who love historical fiction and a serious challenge.
After thoroughly enjoying Promise Me This, I couldn't wait to read whatever Cathy came up with next. Band of Sisters was not quite the story I was anticipating of two Irish sisters fleeing their homeland for a better life in America.
Oh, that's the basis of the story...but, the typical immigrant tale that I expected of discovering that America isn't all gold and glitter had a much darker side in Band of Sisters.
The crux of Gohlke's newest book is white slavery: women and young girls being kidnapped by traffickers and sold for immoral purposes. And although Cathy set her novel in 1910 NYC, she shares with her reader that she was challenged to write about a current need. Sadly, she states,
`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.'
Shocking, isn't it?
I've read about the issue on a few other mom blogs, but in my small protected circle, it's difficult to imagine such happenings still occurring - and how huge the issue really is.
Band of Sisters relates the story of one Maureen O'Reilly and her determination to protect and provide for her young sister. Her courage is sorely tested when she recognizes that all is not as upstanding as it seems at Darcy's Department Store.
However, Maureen's painful past makes it almost impossible for her to trust those who promise to help, let alone love the one man who knows her miserable history.
Cathy is definitely a fabulous writer. Despite the vile subject, she did not go into great detail (which I greatly appreciate), although some of the name-calling by Maureen's sister made me a bit uncomfortable (and the revelation of her mother's behavior was quite unsettling).
I thought Cathy successfully used her writing skills to call attention to a problem that has never gone away...if anything, it has grown. Current at the time was Sheldon's book, In His Steps. Cathy used this man's challenge, `What would Jesus do?' as a basis for the wealthy society ladies who wanted to make a difference, but weren't sure where to start.
I believe the phrase has been almost overused in the past few decades, somewhat diminishing it's vital meaning. Truly, what WOULD Jesus do in each and every situation you find yourself in? Are you willing to DO what He would do? Not just in the big things! Sometimes, just learning to hold our tongue is a small, but HUGE thing!
If we each allowed the Holy Spirit to control us, doing what we know Jesus would do, what a difference could be made! Starting with our own life, then our family, friends...the world!
Truly weighty subjects in Band of Sisters - white slavery and our willingness to humbly submit to the Lord. The book was definitely powerful and thought-provoking.
*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given, and all thoughts are 100% mine.*
The year is 1910. Desperate to protect her sister from a fate similar to one she herself has suffered, Maureen O’Reilly and her sister Katie Rose flee Ireland and the lustful eyes of the landlord's son. Seeking a fulfillment of a promise a Colonel Wakefield made to her father to repay a Civil War debt, Maureen and Katie Rose travel to New York. Upon arriving in America, they face one obstacle after another, almost facing deportation, learning that Colonel Wakefield has died, and having no money to their name. After Maureen uses deception to obtain employment at a department store, she soon learns about the mysterious "better jobs" offered upstairs at the store. When woman start disappearing, Maureen fears the worst. Maureen and some unexpected allies must fight against the evil stealing women from the city, banding together to seek justice, all while Maureen must learn to overcome her own stained past.
Maureen and Katie Rose's story is a fascinating one, and I was immediately drawn into their story, into the injustices they encountered in Ireland and the poverty they found awaiting them in New York. I simply shuddered to think of two vulnerable woman being basically alone at that point in history, in a place where men were seeking to exploit them for their own desires and gain. The characters are beautifully developed, alive with colour and depth, set in the midst of difficult circumstances that fully invoked my empathy. The scenes involving the woman captured into the sex trade are truly heart-breaking and powerful in their portrayal of an unspeakable evil.
Band of Sisters is a powerfully moving story, one that proved to be even more than I expected. I picked up the book expecting to be entertained - and I was. I picked up the book expecting to encounter a well-written read - and I did. But I did not pick up the book expecting my faith to be so challenged, to feel so moved to ask myself what Jesus would do, how I should respond in the face of social injustices, in the face of need. This book is not simply a poignant story, but a call to band together as Christians to confront the evil in this world, one person at a time.
Cathy Gohlke's latest novel reminds me again why she has won two Christy awards. Her stories are simply masterfully told, and deserve to be read more than once. I highly recommend this book and award it 5 out of 5 stars.
An advanced egalley of this book was provided by the publisher, Tyndale, for the purposes of this unbiased review
A determined Irish immigrant, with the scarlet S blazoned on her soul. Wealthy sisters, grieving for the father who left a legacy in his diary...or did he? A seedy underside of the city receiving the tired, the poor…and often abusing them in dark, hidden rooms.
Handsome men. Evil men. The women who love them.
In her fourth novel, award-winning Cathy Gohlke explores the life of Maureen O’Reilly, who’s determined to eke out a living for herself and her younger sister in bawdy, harsh New York. When a letter of introduction addressed to the survivors of a prominent army veteran results only in slammed doors, Maureen internalizes her frustration with God, her distrust of men, and uses her wits to find sustenance.
A compassionate benevolence worker, a loyal Irishman, and God’s mercy links the O’Reilly sisters with a determined, though naïve band of reformers. Yet New York’s seedy underside, which gobbles up innocent women and destroys them, threatens to blot out a future for Maureen and her sibling.
You will cheer for Gohlke’s heroines and heroes, race to the flood of an ending, shed a tear for those stained by heinous acts, and triumph with God’s good, but don’t miss the modern-day application of Cathy’s book. Order it TODAY!