Lilac Girls introduced readers to Caroline Ferriday, an American philanthropist who helped young girls released from Ravensbruck concentration camp. Now, in Sunflower Sisters, Kelly tells the story of her ancestor Georgeanna Woolsey, a Union nurse who joins the war effort during the Civil War, and how her calling leads her to cross paths with Jemma, a young enslaved girl who is sold off and conscripted into the army, and Ann-May Wilson, a southern plantation mistress whose husband enlists.
Georgeanne “Georgey” Woolsey isn’t meant for the world of lavish parties and demure attitudes of women of her stature. So when the war ignites the nation, Georgey follows her passion for nursing during a time when doctors considered women a bother on the battlefront. In proving them wrong, she and her sister Eliza venture from New York to Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg and witness the unparalleled horrors of slavery as they become involved in the war effort.
In the South, Jemma is enslaved on the Peeler Plantation in Maryland, where she lives with her mother and father. Her sister, Patience, is enslaved on the plantation next door and both live in fear of LeBaron, an abusive overseer who tracks their every move. When Jemma is sold by the cruel plantation mistress Anne-May at the same time the Union army comes through, she sees a chance to finally escape–but only by abandoning the family she loves.
Anne-May is left behind to run Peeler Planation when her husband joins the Union Army and her cherished brother enlists with the Confederates. In charge of the household, she uses the opportunity to follow her own ambitions and is drawn into a secret Southern network of spies, finally exposing herself to the fate she deserves.
Inspired by true accounts, Sunflower Sisters provides a vivid, detailed look at the Civil War experience, from the barbaric and inhumane plantations, to a war-torn New York City to the horrors of the battlefield. It’s a sweeping story of women caught in a country on the brink of collapse, in a society grappling with nationalism and unthinkable racial cruelty, a story still so relevant today.
Praise for Sunflower Sisters
From Southern spies to nurses on the northern battlefields, Sunflower Sisters weaves an exquisite tapestry of women determined to defy the molds the world has for them. The journeys of Jemma and the Woolsey sisters will have readers celebrating those who came before us, who fought for what they knew was right, and became timeless women ahead of their times.”—Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends
“Sunflower Sisters marks the third installment of Martha Hall Kelly’s tales of the formidable Woolsey Women, with this chapter unfolding across the plantations, battlefields, and parlor rooms of one of history’s most dramatic moments. The Civil War roils as a sweeping backdrop and an era of both heartbreaking and inspiring humanity. Kelly’s vivid prose, stunning historical research, and heartfelt, compelling characters make this a gripping, page-turning read.”—Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune
To say I was excited for this book was a little bit of an understatement. I mean, I literally started reading it as soon as it came in the mail. There’s just something about this story that pulls you right in and forces you to become invested in the characters and their lives.
This book is just so beautifully written and I really love how all of the stories come together. And it’s such a timely story that is done artfully. There wasn’t a single main character that I wasn’t invested in and I really just enjoyed the setting. I don’t want to get into too much of the plot though because I want you to be able to just fall into it and let the story unfold around you.
Also, although this is technically the third book in this series feel free to read them out of order! While the books follow the same family they are set in separate time frames so you can run out to the bookstore and get Sunflower Sisters right now!
About the Author
Martha is a native New Englander who lives in Litchfield County Connecticut. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years, and raised three wonderful children who are now mostly out of the nest. Her debut novel Lilac Girls, about Connecticut socialite Caroline Ferriday who championed a group of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp survivors known as The Rabbits who survived WWII Nazi experiments, was her first novel and an instant New York Times bestseller. The prequel to Lilac Girls, Lost Roses, was also an instant NYTimes bestseller. It features Caroline’s mother Eliza Ferriday and her fight to save a group of Russian women, former aristocrats who lost everything in the Russian Revolution. The Lost Roses paperback published March 3rd, 2020 and the third book in the series, a Civil War novel about Caroline’s great grandmother’s family, arrives spring 2021.
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*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*