‘Band of Sisters’ author Lauren Willig shares the story behind her new novel

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LA SALLE - The LaSalle Public Library’s next virtual program will take place on Tuesday, March 9 featuring author Lauren Willig, who will discuss her newest novel, “Band of Sisters.” This free program will begin at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.

Willig’s novel is based on the remarkable true story of the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College graduates who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers crushed between two armies. She will discuss the challenges the Smith College Relief Unit faced, share the exciting process of uncovering the story from the thousands of letters written home by members of the Unit, and explain why it is important that these American heroines not be forgotten.

Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 works of historical fiction, including “The Summer Country,” the RITA Award winning “Pink Carnation” series, and three novels co-written with Beatriz Williams and Karen White. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, two young children, and vast quantities of coffee.

This program will be presented via Zoom and registration is required to receive the Zoom link. To register online, go to https://bit.ly/3rqTljk. Those who prefer to connect using an iPad or smartphone, need more information, or have questions, please contact Rachael Blomquist, Digital Content Librarian, at rblomquist@lasalle.lib.il.us or call the Library at (815) 223-2341.

More about “Band of Sisters”

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.”

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 17 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? 

“Band of Sisters” was released on March 2. To read the first three chapters of the book, go to https://bit.ly/36J7osS.

Coming up: On Saturday, March 13 from 1 to 2:30 p.m., LaSalle Public Library will host Father Dominic Garramone, aka the Bread Monk. Father Dominic will demonstrate three delicious Easter recipes to make using any basic white bread dough. He will begin with a braided loaf, using a technique so simple even beginner bakers can create a showpiece bread, and then a ham and cheese lattice loaf that is both pretty as well as hearty. For the finale, he will share his great-grandmother’s Austrian Povitica recipe, which has a savory filling made of bacon, walnuts and eggs. To register online for this program, go to https://bit.ly/3aaCwU1.