Format Read: Print ARC & print trade paperback
Source: From the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Buying Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble The Book Depository
Blurb from goodreads ~
Menina Walker was a child of fortune. Rescued after a hurricane in South America, doomed to a life of poverty with a swallow medal as her only legacy, the orphaned toddler was adopted by an American family and taken to a new life. As a beautiful, intelligent woman of nineteen, she is in love, engaged, and excited about the future — until another traumatic event shatters her dreams. Menina flees to Spain to bury her misery in research for her college thesis about a sixteenth-century artist who signed his works with the image of a swallow — the same image as the one on Menina’s medal. But a mugging strands Menina in a musty, isolated Spanish convent. Exploring her surroundings, she discovers the epic sagas of five orphan girls who were hidden from the Spanish Inquisition and received help escaping to the New World. Is Menina’s medal a link to them, or to her own past? Did coincidence lead her to the convent, or fate? Both love story and historical thriller, The Sisterhood is an emotionally charged ride across continents and centuries.
I love this cover, it's so pretty. It reflects the Islamic and Spanish traditions that are such a huge part of the story. I initially received an ARC of the book which didn't have this cover and then I received a final copy and was excited to see the cover. I had started the ARC but since I had a finished copy I put it down and when I started reading it again, I read the finished copy.
This book was amazing. The story was utterly enthralling and kept my attention. I was completely absorbed and only took time out to eat and sleep. The story starts in the 16th century in Spain, jumps to the late 20th century in South America and then jumps to the beginning of the 21st century in the US. After that, it moves back and forth between 16th century Spain and South America and early 21st century US and then Spain. Most of the story takes place in the past. To be honest, Menina's story, set in the 20th and 21st centuries, was the least interesting to me. She never felt real to me but more of a cardboard character. Late in the book, she started to come alive and seem real but her storyline is really just a framework for the stories of Las Golondrinas convents, both the Spanish and Andean ones. It was those stories that held me and fascinated me.
We get up close looks at life in Spain and later South America in the 16th century. The stories of the convents, the nuns and other women who lived in them, their work and lives was fascinating and engrossing. In the time of the Inquisition, no one was safe, regardless of religion or class. I'm not familiar with that time period other than a brief look in history class and Bryan brings it to life in all it's terror, glory, richness and hatred. But I never felt like I was back in class or reading a text book. Instead, I was there, living it.There is a lot head jumping as the flashbacks are told from the perspective from different characters over time. Bryan handles the transitions smoothly and I was never confused about who was talking and where we were.
The story is a wonderful tale of religion, politics, conspiracies, women, love (all kinds of love, not just romantic), strength, perseverance, hope, hate, and peace. It is aptly named The Sisterhood as it celebrates women, their kinship, and their ongoing struggle to be recognized and treated equally. It all works together beautifully. For the most part. There are some flaws. In addition to Menina's cardboard nature, there are some unlikely and convenient coincidences, some dropped threads, and the modern-day ending was entirely too neat and tidy for my liking. But this epic story swept me away and I was sorry to see it end.