Band of Sisters

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Title: Band of Sisters
Published by: William Morrow
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Pages: 400
ISBN13: 978-0062986153

A group of young women from Smith College risk their lives in France at the height of World War I in this sweeping novel based on a true story—a skillful blend of Call the Midwife and The Alice Network—from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig.

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.

Three weeks 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?

Read an excerpt from BAND OF SISTERS.

Watch a video about the Smith College Relief Unit.

Explore pictures, maps, and more in the Band of Sisters Book Club Kit (aka the Readers' Guide).

Praise & Awards

  • Indie Next Pick

Booksellers Love BAND OF SISTERS:

“Prepare to fall in love with these intrepid women and all their faults and foibles. When the Smith College graduates went off to aid the war effort in France, they learned as much about themselves as they did about the hardships of the war torn country. Lauren Willig has crafted a story that will thrill readers' souls and warm their hearts. BAND OF SISTERS is the best kind of historical fiction - a saga that sweeps you away to another time and place and leaves you all the better for the experience. Glorious!”
-- Pamela Klinger-Horn, Literature Lovers' Night Out™

“Willig's Band of Sisters pulled me in and took me on a journey of complicated friendships that grew and matured in the midst of hardship and trial.  Mishaps with roosters, snowstorms, and reminders of the kindness and resilience of people, this historical fiction is a delight to read.”
-- Laura DeLaney, Rediscovered Bookshop, Boise, ID      

This is historical fiction at its best! Lauren Willig treats us to a story of sisterhood, courage and hope in Band of Sisters, based on the real group of women who brought relief to the people of France who'd been devasted by World War I. Throughout the book we follow Kate and seventeen more heroes as they learn to overcome their own differences and bring hope to a world that needs it so desperately. And who doesn't want a heroic story of hope against all odds in these times?
-- Tara Lombardozzi, The Book Cove, Pawling, NY

“I am so glad I decided to take a break from psychological thrillers and read this absolutely amazing work of historical fiction which was based on a true story.  It is the story of the Smith College Relief Unit – a group of 18 young Smith alumni who go to France during WWI to try and bring relief, aid, food and caring to remote villages of women and children that were decimated by the Germans....  The tales of their trials and tribulations during such trying and dangerous times were funny, scary, heartwarming, heartbreaking and everything in between.  I laughed out loud on one page and cried on the next.  It is an amazing story of women who are as much heroes as the men who went to war, a beautiful tale of friendship, and an intriguing look at wartime that I had never seen before. Made even more intriguing by the fact that many of the characters and events that happened were based on true stories found in journals and letters from Smith alumni.”
-- Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC    

“I have loved Lauren Willig since her Pink Carnation days, and it is delightful to see her move on from Regency England into other eras. This fictionalized story of World War 1's Smith College Relief Unit is informative, inspirational, and gripping. If you love historical fiction, this is your book!”
-- Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY      

“I love a good WWI book (there should be more!) and Lauren is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. She knows the time period well (having co-authored another WWI favorite of mine, The Glass Ocean) and her love for her characters also shines though. I delighted in getting to know Kate and Emmie and I'm sure fellow historical fiction lovers will love them as well!”
-- Sarah Danforth, Towne Book Center and Wine Bar, Collegeville, PA

“After just reading An Unladylike Profession by Chris Dubbs, this is a marvelous historical novel illustrating the lives of the women & children in the villages. Not only is it the tale of the immense bravery of real Smith College grads, but of their most-helpful work quite near the French trenches during WWI. These hard-working women passed out food, mattresses, medical supplies and aid to wounded soldiers, and empathy to the villagers whose homes were devastated by the fighting. Their story is riveting, uplifting and wonderful.”
-- Karen Bakshoian , Letterpress Books Inc, Standish, ME         

“A story of friendship as a group of women come together to serve during World War 1. As these women of different circumstances come together in difficult times, they learn forgiveness and what friendship truly means. They also learn their strength as a woman in a man’s world. A good historical fiction read for fans of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network.”
--Jill Gregory, A Likely Story Bookstore, Sykesville, MD 

“A group of Smith graduates goes to war. Some are friends from their Smith days, some are complete strangers. They all have their own personalities and quirks. They are volunteering to bring help to villages devastated by war. They have no idea what’s awaiting them. In the course of a few months, they will learn more about themselves, their deepest fears, their inner strengths that they could ever have imagined. At the end, they will have become a Band of Sisters. The novel deftly uses its historical background (a Smith Unit did go to France towards the end of WW1) to talk about a key moment when women started to take ownership of their own lives. Yes, marriage was still every young girl’s dream (and duty), yes, social and religious differences were still pronounced, but women got the right to vote in New York, they went to medical school, they drove trucks, they organized rescue operations and still found time to sort out complicated matters of friendship, love and self-respect.”
-- Francoise Brodsky, Shakespeare & Company, New York, NY    

“Highly Recommending.”
-- Susan Coffey, Bookie's, Chicago, IL       

“Highly Recommending.”
-- Rae Ann Parker, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN             


 “An inspiring ode to the indomitable strength of women and the fierce, indelible bonds of female friendship, a tale of she-roes that will make you both laugh and cry."
-- Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of THE QUEEN'S FORTUNE


“As a Smith grad, I am deeply grateful for BAND OF SISTERS, a World War I novel that pays an overdue and moving tribute to the brave women who passed through the historic Grécourt Gates, passing down a legacy of humanitarian service and accomplishment. With heart and humor, Willig explores the complexities of female friendships--feuds, forgiveness, and all--to give us a touching portrait of triumph and found family in the midst of a very dangerous zone of war. Bravo!”
-- Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of AMERICA'S FIRST DAUGHTER


“A crackling portrayal of everyday American heroines who risk everything to volunteer in war-torn France, at a time when women didn’t even have the right to vote. Willig brilliantly imbues this gritty, based-on-real-life narrative with her trademark dry wit and crystalline prose. A triumph.”
--Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE


Band of Sisters spotlights a fascinating group of young women who braved the strains of world war to help those caught in the crossfire and left direly in need. Through snappy dialogue and endearing characters, Willig delivers a heartwarming tale powered by sisterly support, forgiveness, and the strength found together—and within.”
--Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of SOLD ON A MONDAY


“With wit and care and skill, Lauren Willig has delivered a highly readable literary escape. Brimming with a cast of characters to love and root for, and based on actual events and the lives of truly brave women, BAND OF SISTERS is the perfect story for our troubled times. This is the historical novel you’ve been hungering for.”
-- Susan Meissner, bestselling author of THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS


“With great skill, Lauren Willig brings to life a lost piece of World War One history: the fascinating, based-on-a-true-story tale of a band of women from Smith College who chose to go to France to rebuild shattered villages just miles from the front. In Band of Sisters, Willig has created characters you’ll root for, seemingly insurmountable challenges at every turn, and a battle-ravaged setting so real that you’ll forget you’re reading fiction. Her meticulous research is evident and woven beautifully throughout, and her talent for transporting readers to another time and place is matched only by her knack for writing about complicated, fascinating women.  A compelling tale of love, resilience, expectations, bravery, and above all, the powerful, redemptive bonds of female friendship, all set to the richly drawn backdrop of war-torn, early twentieth century France.”
-- Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES


“In this captivating novel, the Band of Sisters introduces readers to a little-known, but important, slice of World War I history -- the brave and daring efforts of the all-female Smith College Relief Unit to aid French women and children devastated by the war. Through the eyes of Kate and Emmie, two fascinating Smith women from wildly different backgrounds who dare to make a difference in a world inhospitable to ambitious women, the ever-masterful Lauren Willig beautifully celebrates the actions of these singular women, who scaled far above the barriers erected by society and themselves to soar.”
--Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

Reviewers Love BAND OF SISTERS:

“Willig expertly uses historical detail in her seamless, well-plotted tale. This will entice readers from the very first page.”
--Publishers Weekly

“An incredible sweeping tale of bravery, sisterhood and friendship set amid the challenges of World War I.  A simply wonderful tale of She-roes! Told with Lauren Willig's dry wit and meticulous research, Band of Sisters is a gem that will stay with you long after you read it.”
-- Andrea Katz, Great Thoughts Great Readers


“The characters in this book are unforgettable. The story is gripping and action packed, and, maybe even more importantly, it reminds us that during the darkest of times there will always be those who try to help. This book celebrates the human spirit in a such a moving way. By telling the tale of these women who gave so much, it reminds us of the best of humanity and what it means to care about something bigger than one's self. This is a book about compassion, courage, and community, and it is exactly the book I needed to read right now.”
-- I'd Rather Read