Author Martha Hall Kelly's first book, Lilac Girls, introduced us to real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday, an American woman who came to the aid of young girls released from Ravensbruck concentration camp. Her second book, Lost Roses, was about Caroline's mother Eliza set during the period before WWI. In Sunflower Sisters, the third and final book in the series, we meet Caroline’s ancestor Georgeanna "Georgy" Woolsey who aids the Union Army during the Civil War. This remarkable family’s saga starts with the events in this book. It is not essential that you read the first two books before reading Sunflower Sisters as each book goes back a generation but it is worth reading all three in any order you choose.
This rich story is told from the perspectives of three women impacted by the Civil War and the divided country. Georgy leaves her lavish New York City life, trains to be a nurse and along with one of her sisters, volunteers to help the war's sick and wounded. The members of the philanthropic Woolsey family are staunch abolitionists. The second perspective is from Jemma, a sixteen year old slave at Peeler Plantation located in the border state of Maryland where supporters of Union and Rebel forces live side-by-side. The third point of view is from Anne-May Wilson Watson, who is the owner of Peeler Plantation including its slaves. Anne-May inherited the plantation from her late aunt who had made specific provisions for her slaves to be freed upon her death. Anne-May, who refuses to honor these wishes, is brutally abusive to Jemma and her family and is selfish and cruel to most others including her own family.
This impressive book, where each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, brings the reader into the battlefields, the plantations with the horrors of slavery, and the streets of New York City. The war rages on and the lives of the three women intersect in an exciting manner. Sunflower Sisters was one of my most anticipated books in a while and it did not disappoint. It starts a little slow as there are many characters to get to know but stick with it. And be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end to gain additional information on the Woolsey family. I also recommend visiting the author’s website marthahallkelly.com for even more insight including the Woolsey Family Tree which ties the characters from all three books together.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Ballantine Books / Random House and the author for the opportunity to read this wonderful book in advance of its publication.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: March 30, 2021.
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