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Sunflower Sisters

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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 w 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.


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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 w 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.

30 review for Sunflower Sisters

  1. 4 out of 5

    MarilynW

    Sunflower Sisters (Lilac Girls #3) by Martha Hall Kelly Despite this book being listed as number three in the Lilac Girls series, the books do not have to be read in order and you do not need to read the other books to get the full enjoyment of each book. Sunflower Sisters takes place during the Civil War and covers the lives of the real life Woolsey women, from the viewpoint of Georgeanne Woolsey, as they try to bring relief to all who suffer, no matter their color and no matter their army affil Sunflower Sisters (Lilac Girls #3) by Martha Hall Kelly Despite this book being listed as number three in the Lilac Girls series, the books do not have to be read in order and you do not need to read the other books to get the full enjoyment of each book. Sunflower Sisters takes place during the Civil War and covers the lives of the real life Woolsey women, from the viewpoint of Georgeanne Woolsey, as they try to bring relief to all who suffer, no matter their color and no matter their army affiliation. We also follow sixteen year old Jemma, who is enslaved with her family, on the Peeler Plantation in Maryland. Anne-May is now the owner of the Peeler plantation and the slaves that live on the plantation. Anne-May is a vain, uneducated, greedy, selfish woman and her slaves suffer for all her shortcomings. Jemma has fond memories of her the former late mistress of the plantation because it was due to her former mistress that Jemma can read, write, and speak in an educated manner despite the fact that her former mistress could also be cruel. Anne-May forbids Jemma to read and write except when Anne-May wants Jemma to record Union secrets into a book that Anne-May passes on to men spying for the Confederates.  Georgeanne is determined to learn nursing and help on the battlefield and in hospitals despite the fierce opposition from doctors and male nurses who think that a woman isn't smart enough to be able to do the job of nursing. She, her sisters, and her mother work tirelessly to give their time, money, and possessions to help those in need. The author notes of the book are as interesting as the story, as the author relates all that the family continued to do after the war, to further the health, education, and lives of others.  This is a long story and it seems slow in the first half of the book as we get to know the characters and the times. Eventually  Georgeanne and Jemma come together as Jemma comes to know she can trust Georgeanne and her family and the story feels like it is moving forward. Jemma, by the time she meets Georgeanna, is a runaway slave, having been conscripted by the Union army as their drummer "boy", until she is injured in battle. She is desperate to get back to the plantation to save her mother and sister but being caught is at the risk of her freedom and life.  Georgeanna, her mother, and sisters are determined to help solders on both sides of the war, despite all the blockades that are put in their way. The fragility of humans is ever present, people left to die because so many others need to be treated and medical help (thanks to the prejudice against how woman can help treat the sick), food, beds, and supplies are in short supply. It's not only the war that takes lives but disease runs rampant through the masses of people living in unsanitary conditions due to poverty and/or war.  I am very interested in the historical aspects of the book although the flood of information seemed to slow down the story at times. The story is wrenching on so many levels, the unspeakable brutality of people kept as slaves, and the horror of families, neighbors, and countrymen fighting each other to gruesome deaths. The fight of some women to change our times, so that women could be allowed to train and work as nurses, shows the many obstacles in the way of women being allowed to do more than just cook, clean, wash, birth babies, and stand by while people die.  Publication: March 30th 2021 Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley for this ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    ***NOW AVAILABLE, RELEASED ON 3/30/21*** I really enjoyed “The Lilac Girls” by this author so I was anxious to read this new novel. First off I want to state that a 3* from me means it’s a good book, just not a great one for me. The story is told from three points of view. First we have plantation owner Anne-May Watson. She is as cruel as could possibly be depicted. She whips her slaves, feeds them poorly and trades them without a second thought. She is probably a compilation of many such owners ***NOW AVAILABLE, RELEASED ON 3/30/21*** I really enjoyed “The Lilac Girls” by this author so I was anxious to read this new novel. First off I want to state that a 3* from me means it’s a good book, just not a great one for me. The story is told from three points of view. First we have plantation owner Anne-May Watson. She is as cruel as could possibly be depicted. She whips her slaves, feeds them poorly and trades them without a second thought. She is probably a compilation of many such owners in the south at the time. She has an even worse overseer who is an evil man and seems to enjoy whipping and torturing the slaves. This takes place in Maryland which remained neutral as a state during the civil war. There were many families who fought brother against brother, father against son, etc. That is what happens here, with Anne-May’s husband fighting for the union and her dear brother Harry fighting for the Confederates. Anne-May does have some secrets that will come out later in the book. Second point of view is that of Jemma who is enslaved on the Peeler Plantation owned by Ms. Watson. She has her mother and father on this plantation and a sister, Patience close by at a neighboring plantation. She has suffered much abuse at Anne-May’s hands and when she has a chance to escape, she takes it. But she’s not totally free yet, Anne-May will stop at nothing to get her back. Jemma has something that she wants and will do anything to get it from her. The third point of view is that of Georgy Woolsey who lives in the north and is from a wealthy family. She is not content to stay home and knit socks!! She becomes a nurse and joins the Union army. As most women nurses back then, the doctors treated them often with disdain and thought them more suited just for making beds and emptying bedpans. Georgy however likes to stay at the side of the surgeons, assisting and helping with the patients. She and her sister Eliza discover the many dark truths about slavery and the horrors of war. They travel with the army from New York, to Washington D.C. and also serve at Gettysburg, as you all know was a terribly bloody confrontation. The problem I had with this book is that it didn’t show or tell me about anything new. I have read historical fiction for many years and have read a lot about slavery and the nurses heroic deeds during the war. I had hoped that with the mention of “spying for the Confederate army” that there might be a lot of mystery here. However there wasn’t enough of that to keep me interested. At 528 pages this is a long read. More editing to shorten this novel and condense some of the overly wordy descriptions and parts of the story I think would help. I would recommend this to someone who hasn’t read a lot of history about slavery or women’s roles in the Union army. I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley. The novel is set to publish on March 30, 2021

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kerrin P

    **Now Available!** Sunflower Sisters is Martha Hall Kelly’s third book about the real-life women of the Woolsey/Ferriday family who were philanthropists. According to the author, “when the members of the Woolsey family gave up toys, they took up politics.” Sunflower Sisters is about Caroline Ferriday’s great aunt, Georgeanna Woolsey, who worked as a nurse during the Civil War. It is my favorite of the three novels. The other two novels are Lilac Girls (Caroline Ferriday, World War II) and Lost Ro **Now Available!** Sunflower Sisters is Martha Hall Kelly’s third book about the real-life women of the Woolsey/Ferriday family who were philanthropists. According to the author, “when the members of the Woolsey family gave up toys, they took up politics.” Sunflower Sisters is about Caroline Ferriday’s great aunt, Georgeanna Woolsey, who worked as a nurse during the Civil War. It is my favorite of the three novels. The other two novels are Lilac Girls (Caroline Ferriday, World War II) and Lost Roses (Eliza Mitchell Ferriday, World War I). The name Sunflower Sisters is based on the fact that sunflowers were used as a sign of danger on the underground railroad. They would be placed on fences or trees near unsafe places so the escaped slaves would know to avoid those areas. The novel is told through the points of view of three women. First is Georgeanna “Georgey” Woolsey, second Anne-May Wilson-Watkins, a female tobacco plantation owner in Maryland, and third by Jemma, a slave on that plantation. The storyline regarding Georgey is based upon the Woolsey family letters and memorabilia in the family museum. It was fascinating to read of the discrimination against female nurses, and the extra hardships they suffered during the Civil War. The plantation owner, Anne-May Wilson-Watson, is fictional but seems to accurately portray the cruelty of slave owners and their overseers. Anne-May, whose husband is fighting for the Union Army, gets taken in by a local merchant and helps pass war secrets along to the Rebels. Anne-May is quite the character and makes even Pinkerton Detectives look like fools. Regardless of how bad she is, she seems to always get her way. Jemma, a slave on Anne-May’s plantation is a strong young woman, who cares deeply for her family. Anne-May takes advantage of Jemma’s ability to read and write when it comes time to pass on the war secrets. Georgy and her mother, Eliza Jane Woolsey, meet Jemma in Gettysburg after Jemma had been conscripted into service of the Union Army and take her under their wings. While the novel is 528 pages long, the plot moves right along. There is suspense, intrigue, and very interesting information about the Civil War. 5-Stars. Highly recommended. Thank you to #Netgalley and Ballantine Books for my advanced reader copy. The expected publication date is March 30, 2021. If you love historical fiction, be sure to put this on your To Be Read List.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    With each book she writes, Kelly goes back further in time to a different war. She’s now reached the Civil War. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure how she’d manage to bring all the characters together. We have the Wolsey sisters, Northern abolitionists trained as nurses, Jemma, a slave on a southern Maryland plantation and Anne-May Wilson, the owner of that plantation. Once again, Kelly manages to effortlessly weave historical facts into her story. To me, the mark of a good historical fiction is th With each book she writes, Kelly goes back further in time to a different war. She’s now reached the Civil War. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure how she’d manage to bring all the characters together. We have the Wolsey sisters, Northern abolitionists trained as nurses, Jemma, a slave on a southern Maryland plantation and Anne-May Wilson, the owner of that plantation. Once again, Kelly manages to effortlessly weave historical facts into her story. To me, the mark of a good historical fiction is the ability to teach me something new. This one does that in spades. It helps that she had the Ferriday family memorabilia to help her with the story. In fact, I was shocked to learn how much of the story is based on fact. The Woolsey family kept their letters from the Civil War and Hall had hundreds to use as the basis of the story. The story moves at a quick pace and despite its length, I tore through it in two days. I was fully invested in both the story and the characters (even Anne-May, who I wanted to see get her full comeuppance. Kelly paints the scenes and they rolled in front of my eyes like a movie. I’ve been a fan of Kelly, but I think this was my favorite of all her books. My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    4.5 Stars Sunflower Girls continues the story of the Woolsey family that began with Lilac Girls, set during World War II and sharing the story of the time and lives across continents. Following Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly stepped back further in time with her second book, Lost Roses which is set in 1914 in NYC to and follows Caroline Ferriday, a real-life heroine who is introduced in Lilac Girls. In Sunflower Girls, we step back further in time to learn the story of Caroline Ferriday’s ancesto 4.5 Stars Sunflower Girls continues the story of the Woolsey family that began with Lilac Girls, set during World War II and sharing the story of the time and lives across continents. Following Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly stepped back further in time with her second book, Lost Roses which is set in 1914 in NYC to and follows Caroline Ferriday, a real-life heroine who is introduced in Lilac Girls. In Sunflower Girls, we step back further in time to learn the story of Caroline Ferriday’s ancestor, Georgeanna, Georgy, Woolsey, who during the 1860’s becomes a Union nurse as the Civil War begins to ravage lives across the country. A woman who had the audacity, temerity, and bravery to insert herself into a man’s world. Not just the fact that it was a war, and women weren’t allowed to serve in any real capacity in the U.S. military, only men. It was not only taboo, but women - other than convicts - who worked were typically either pitied or scorned. Georgy is joined by her sister Eliza, leaving New York to join the war in order to support the freedom of those enslaved, ultimately ending up in Gettysburg, where they are confronted with the horrors of both slavery and war. In Maryland, Jemma lives with both her mother and father on the Peeler Plantation, with her sister Patience having been sold off to the neighboring plantation owners. While Maryland voted to stay with the Union, slavery is still alive, and those owning plantations weren’t partial to the idea of letting go of their “investments” so easily. The Peeler Plantation has been left in the hands of Anne-May after her husband and brother have left to fight for the Confederates. LeBaron, the overseer, watches over them all closely, and any chance he gets for teaching them a lesson, he’s only happy to oblige. Jemma eventually seizes an opportunity to escape, dressed in boys clothes, and ends up conscripted into the Union army. While happy to leave behind the life she’s lived, sorrow fills her thoughts, brokenhearted over the family she had to leave behind. A fictionalized story based on the lives and stories of real people that lived during this horrendous time, this story shares yet another unique exposé of a time, the places and people of the time that now seems eerily timely, and all too relevant. Our current news coverage is filled with stories about racial brutality spurred on by a belief that the colour of a person’s skin determines their right to live in this country, America. This country that we pledge our allegiance to, in order that it may continue to have liberty and justice for all. The following links from the author’s website may help keep track of characters and locations in this story: https://marthahallkelly.com/sunflower... https://marthahallkelly.com/holly-hol... Pub Date: 30 Mar 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine #SunflowerSisters #NetGalley

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    4 bright stars for the third and final book in the trilogy about Caroline Ferriday's family. I have read and enjoyed the 2 previous books in the series, Lilac Girls and Lost Roses This book, like the other 2 is based on real people and what they did in the US Civil War. These books can be read as stand alones. Lilac Girls takes place from WWII to the 50s. Lost Roses is set during WWI. This book is told from the point of view of 3 characters: Georgy, 1 of the Woolsey sisters Jemma, a slave on a Ma 4 bright stars for the third and final book in the trilogy about Caroline Ferriday's family. I have read and enjoyed the 2 previous books in the series, Lilac Girls and Lost Roses This book, like the other 2 is based on real people and what they did in the US Civil War. These books can be read as stand alones. Lilac Girls takes place from WWII to the 50s. Lost Roses is set during WWI. This book is told from the point of view of 3 characters: Georgy, 1 of the Woolsey sisters Jemma, a slave on a Maryland plantation Anne-May Watson, owner of the Maryland plantation. She is a self centered cruel woman who delights in whipping her slaves, especially Jemma. Much of this book is based upon actual letters written by the Woolsey family or to the Woolsey family. They detail the volunteer work by several of the Woolsey sisters during the Civil War. This book is rather long, 528 pages, but it held my interest and I became invested in the characters. It took me 10 days to read it. Two quotes: Anne-May: "Unless it's your own, a wedding is a terrible bore. Especially a colored wedding, where they tie the bonds without even a minister present. Since they're not married in the eyes of God, they sin each time they lie together, putting their souls well on the way to hell." (Slaves were not allowed to have ministers/judges perform weddings in the South). Anne-May on her mother: "How flawless her skin was, even well past forty years old, from years of sleeping at night with thin cut slices of rare beef on her face." Thank You Random House/Ballantine Books for sending me this eARC through NetGalley. #SunflowerSisters #NetGalley Here is my review of Lilac Girls if you want to know more about the trilogy. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  7. 4 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4 Civil War stars -- Now available!! I have read author Martha Hall Kelly’s two previous books – “Lilac Girls” and “Lost Roses” so I jumped at the chance to read her newest book, set just before and through the Civil War. This one is based on the same Ferriday family that we meet in the other two books. One set of characters features the unique Woolsey/Ferriday family, staunch abolitionists, many of them work as nurses. It was fascinating to read about women breaking into the nursing world as I di 4 Civil War stars -- Now available!! I have read author Martha Hall Kelly’s two previous books – “Lilac Girls” and “Lost Roses” so I jumped at the chance to read her newest book, set just before and through the Civil War. This one is based on the same Ferriday family that we meet in the other two books. One set of characters features the unique Woolsey/Ferriday family, staunch abolitionists, many of them work as nurses. It was fascinating to read about women breaking into the nursing world as I didn’t realize that all nurses used to be male as well as doctors. Georgey is the main Woolsey daughter featured in this story. The other storyline features a slave family and the owners of one particular plantation, Peeler Plantation in Maryland. Ann-May Wilson owns the plantation, and she is quite despicable along with her overseer LeBaron. Some of my favorite chapters feature Jemma, a slave who is brutally beaten by Ann-May. I really grew engrossed in Jemma’s family and I rooted for them to have freedom from slavery and this plantation. The two storylines eventually intersect, and I found the second half of this book much more engrossing. There are battlefield scenes and quite a bit on Gettysburg and the aftermath. There are some espionage subplots, blackmail, Underground Railroad, and the people at the heart of a country torn apart. This was a fun buddy read with Mary Beth, Susan, and Dorie. Thank you to Random House Ballantine for the copy of the book to read and review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karren Sandercock

    The Woosley sisters Abby, Jane, Georgeanna, Mary, Eliza, Harriet and Caroline grew up in privileged and well to do household. Their mother Jane lead by example, she helped the less fortunate, an abolitionist and her daughters followed in her footsteps. Georgeanna trained to be a nurse, despite male disapproval and became one of the first Union army nurses serving in the Civil War. She tended wounded in hospitals, on the battle field and aboard hospital ships. She and her sister Eliza went to Get The Woosley sisters Abby, Jane, Georgeanna, Mary, Eliza, Harriet and Caroline grew up in privileged and well to do household. Their mother Jane lead by example, she helped the less fortunate, an abolitionist and her daughters followed in her footsteps. Georgeanna trained to be a nurse, despite male disapproval and became one of the first Union army nurses serving in the Civil War. She tended wounded in hospitals, on the battle field and aboard hospital ships. She and her sister Eliza went to Gettysburg where for three weeks they witness firsthand violent battle, the terrible injuries and the horrors of slavery. Peeler Plantation in Maryland, Jemma is a slave, her father and mother live in the slave quarters and her twin sister Patience works at a nearby Indigo plantation called Ambrosia. The two people she fears the most are her difficult and mean mistress Anne-May and the extremely nasty overseer LeBaron. Anne-May is the owner of Peeler Plantation, her husband Fergus Watson joins the Union army and her beloved brother Harry Wilson joins the Confederate army. Left in charge Anne-May sees it as the perfect opportunity to do as she pleases, she spends too much money, treats her slaves badly and flirts with shop keeper Jubal Smalls. Anne-May is rather naïve, her behavior gets her into serious trouble and she’s drawn into a network of Southern spies. Sunflower Sisters is inspired by the real Woosley sisters, the letters they wrote and other memorabilia kept in a collection. Sunflowers were also used by the underground railway as a symbol of danger and sisters Jemma and Patience were both drawn to them. While reading the story you’re given a comprehensive look at life in American during the time of the Civil War, from the streets of New York to tobacco fields of the South. The plot includes information about the battles of the Civil War and the destruction it caused, the shocking injuries and the massive loss of life. It also looks at the evils of slavery, its terrible cruelty and nothing is left out. It’s a story filled with strong female characters to admire, it has elements of suspense, tension, drama, sadness and a little romance. Martha Hall Kelly has written an amazing book to conclude her Lilac Girl Series, its absolutely brilliant and five stars from me. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    4.5 Stars Rounded Up Civil War Letters. Three cleverly woven together stories told from a trio of unique women: Georgy, a determined young woman of privilege who prevails in becoming a nurse effecting a breach in a male only profession. She shuns her entitlement to work with injured and dying soldiers near the battlefield. Jemma, a resourceful and spirited slave owned by Ann Mae. She and her family reside on the same plantation and want to stay together but have to endure much hardship in addition 4.5 Stars Rounded Up Civil War Letters. Three cleverly woven together stories told from a trio of unique women: Georgy, a determined young woman of privilege who prevails in becoming a nurse effecting a breach in a male only profession. She shuns her entitlement to work with injured and dying soldiers near the battlefield. Jemma, a resourceful and spirited slave owned by Ann Mae. She and her family reside on the same plantation and want to stay together but have to endure much hardship in addition to cruelty. Ann Mae, a tobacco plantation slave owner who holds Jemma’s paper. She and a few others are horrific and you’ll love to hate them! The stories are told separately but converge near the end giving a satisfying conclusion. For those like me who like mystery, there is spying, espionage, and a murdered bad guy. I loved the writing style and the mixing of real and imagined characters. It wasn’t until I read the author’s After Notes describing her research that I realized Georgy's description was based on so much fact. Ms. Kelly accessed hundreds of archived letters written by Georgy and her family including time spent near the battlefield. What a great authenticity to the book to include excerpts from their correspondence! I recommend reading the Afterword if you have the time. My only reason for not giving perfect scores is because of the length. I became distracted at times by all the asides. Other than that, I loved this book! Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for my Advance Reader Copy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    SUNFLOWER SISTERS BY MARTHA HALL KELLY In Martha Hall Kelly's gorgeous epic multilayered story called, "Sunflower Sisters," its scope takes on the Civil War era in which we are introduced not only to the philanthropic Woolsey family in New York City, but also a slave girl named Jemma and her impoverished family living on Peeler Plantation in Maryland. Anne-May is the mistress and owner of Peeler Plantation and is very cruel to her slaves who work the tobacco fields. Jemma is the house slave who is SUNFLOWER SISTERS BY MARTHA HALL KELLY In Martha Hall Kelly's gorgeous epic multilayered story called, "Sunflower Sisters," its scope takes on the Civil War era in which we are introduced not only to the philanthropic Woolsey family in New York City, but also a slave girl named Jemma and her impoverished family living on Peeler Plantation in Maryland. Anne-May is the mistress and owner of Peeler Plantation and is very cruel to her slaves who work the tobacco fields. Jemma is the house slave who is separated from her family whom she loves. Anne-May has already sold off Jemma's sister Patience to a nearby plantation called Ambrosia next door. As Jemma is sent to Ambrosia by Anne-May for errands she sees sunflowers wrapped around posts and trees. She has no idea what they mean but they do carry a cryptic message. Jemma and her family get treated so poorly by LeBaron and his crew who are always lurking around punishing the slaves inhumanely. It made me so angry. The Civil war is being fought as a backdrop and Anne-May's husband and brother who has a kind heart go off to fight on separate sides leaving her to oversee the plantation where she runs it into the ground by overspending and carrying on with a married man who owns a shop where she buys her snuff which she becomes addicted to. Anne-May sells Jemma to a couple up North along with Sally Smith who was her cook and like a grandmother to Jemma. Jemma gets conscripted into the war as a drummer boy and gets shot in the shoulder by confederate snipers and that is how she comes to meet nurse Georgeanne Woolsey and her mother who are working tirelessly as nurses to care for the dying and wounded soldiers. The Woolsey's are from a prestigious and well to do family who live in New York City. They are abolitionist's and when the war starts Georgeanne and Eliza work as nurses. There are a lot of male nurses, orderlies and doctor's who don't treat them with much respect and the two sister's are well trained and know what they are doing. After Eliza, who is married and Georgeanne who is not are sent home they receive a telegram from the army saying the only brother and son in the Woolsey family is wounded Georgeanne and her mother set off at once to the battlefield only to find out that he is okay and that it is just a superficial wound. It is there at Gettysburg where Mrs. Woolsey, a widow and her daughter Georgeanne care for the overflowing amounts of men and sometimes young boys who are gravely wounded. That's how they meet Jemma and take her under their wing and she is free for the first time in her life. Jemma enjoys the life of freedom but wants to get her mother and her sister Patience their freedom as well. There is a menacing specter at work to try to rob Jemma of her freedom which I won't spoil here. The Woolsey's offer Jemma a room in their home and become her protector from the many evil people who would like nothing better than to capture Jemma for various reason's one of which she is in possession of a secret that can have dire consequences to Anne-May and her boyfriend Jubal. They both could be jailed for doing something that amounts to treason. I really thought that this was a compelling plot rich with well fleshed out characters whom were mostly good and decent people trying to serve our nation. There are also a few vile and evil character's out for themselves that do not treat the African American's well at all. I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading "The Lilac Girls," which I own but have not got around to reading it yet. I think that lovers of historical fiction will want to read this historical novel that was really well written and entertaining. It covers a vast cast of character's but they are very easy to keep straight. I will read anything this talented author writes and I highly recommend this historical novel. I felt completely drawn into the story as if I was inside it among these character's with their trials and tribulations. There are many Woolsey sister's and they are a close family who are good citizens and are in service to their country and try to work tirelessly not only in finding ways to help the war effort but all of humanity. I am sad to leave these character's behind and this novel is worthy of its five stars plus. Publication Date: March 30, 2021 Thank you to Net Galley, Martha Hall Kelly and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for generously providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. #SunflowerSisters #MarthaHallKelly #RandomHousePublishingGroupBallantine #NetGalley

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cyndi

    Martha Hall Kelly captured my heart with Lilac Girls and Lost Roses, so I was thrilled to have received this ARC. Sunflower Sisters takes place during the Civil War and is told from the viewpoints of a MD slave, Jemma, her owner, Anne-May, and a NY nurse, Georgy. The stories of how the slaves are treated are poignant and difficult to read, especially when they are being punished. Jemma’s plight, strength and tenacity captured my heart and I experienced a roller coaster of emotions with each of h Martha Hall Kelly captured my heart with Lilac Girls and Lost Roses, so I was thrilled to have received this ARC. Sunflower Sisters takes place during the Civil War and is told from the viewpoints of a MD slave, Jemma, her owner, Anne-May, and a NY nurse, Georgy. The stories of how the slaves are treated are poignant and difficult to read, especially when they are being punished. Jemma’s plight, strength and tenacity captured my heart and I experienced a roller coaster of emotions with each of her accomplishments and struggles. All of Kelly’s characters come across as incredibly authentic with both good and bad qualities. Even the loathsome Anne-May showed moments of humanity at times. Both Jemma and Georgy must face an abundance of prejudices and both emerge as extremely strong women. As with all of Kelly’s books, I was impressed by the amount of research that went into this. Though the characters are fictional, they are based on actual people and events told through letters. I have not read a fictional Civil War book quite like this ever. I love that it is told from 3 very different points of view, which convey the many quandaries of this time in history. It raises many difficult questions about why things were the way they were and how the terrible events of the past are affecting society currently. This is an absolute must-read for 2021. Many thanks to Netgalley, Edelweiss, Ballantine Books and Martha Hall Kelly for my complimentary e-copy ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katie B

    3.5 stars Sunflower Sisters is the third book in the Lilac Girls series however it easily can be read as a standalone novel. This historical fiction book takes place during the Civil War. It's one of those historical fiction reads in which some of it is fact based while some parts were created from the author's imagination. I highly recommend checking the Author's Note when you are finished reading the book as it provided great context into the writing process. Georgeanne aka "Georgy" is part of 3.5 stars Sunflower Sisters is the third book in the Lilac Girls series however it easily can be read as a standalone novel. This historical fiction book takes place during the Civil War. It's one of those historical fiction reads in which some of it is fact based while some parts were created from the author's imagination. I highly recommend checking the Author's Note when you are finished reading the book as it provided great context into the writing process. Georgeanne aka "Georgy" is part of the affluent Woolsey family and lives in New York. She has 6 sisters and a brother and has a desire to contribute to the war effort as a nurse. Jemma is a slave on a Maryland plantation. Ann-May Wilson recently inherited that plantation from her deceased aunt. The story alternates between Georgy, Jemma, and Ann-May. At over 500 pages, it's a lengthy novel and the pacing at times was slow. Jemma is the heart of the story and my interest level was the highest while reading her chapters in the book. I was initially drawn to read this book because Georgy trained to be a nurse under Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the United States to receive a medical degree. Unfortunately Dr. Blackwell does not have a huge role in the story. I'll admit I did start to lose interest in Georgy's work as a Union nurse and the challenges she faced with not being taken seriously by men. For the most part, the character fell flat in my eyes although I'm not sure why that is the case. I wouldn't say there's anything significantly wrong with the book but it does feel like I've seen this story play out time and time again. I'm not even a frequent reader of Civil War era historical fiction but I've watched many movies and tv shows tackling the war and the stories kinda blend into one another. It's the same problem I have run into with World War 2 historical fiction. You have to search high and low to find a story that is unique. With that being said, it was a decent read and the fact the author was able to write three historical fiction books featuring different generations of a family is pretty neat. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance digital copy! All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This is the third book in Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls series about the Woolsey/Ferriday family. I picked this one up because I really enjoyed Lilac Girls #1 (even though I haven't read Lost Roses which was #2 in the series. Missing the second one didn't make any difference to this novel, which could stand alone, but of course it's always nice to have read the full series just for more background. It's a good story and the characters well well done and believable. The plot will keep you turni This is the third book in Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls series about the Woolsey/Ferriday family. I picked this one up because I really enjoyed Lilac Girls #1 (even though I haven't read Lost Roses which was #2 in the series. Missing the second one didn't make any difference to this novel, which could stand alone, but of course it's always nice to have read the full series just for more background. It's a good story and the characters well well done and believable. The plot will keep you turning the pages, even though it is a rather long book. This is set during the Civil War and is told from points of view of three very different women: Jemma, a slave girl, who is owned by Anne-May; Anne-May Wilson Watkins, a tobacco plantation owner in Maryland; and Georgy Woolsey, who is a wealthy Northerner. Jemma's story broke my heart. I felt nothing but hatred for Anne-May. Georgy drew my admiration. I liked the inclusion of some real characters in the story, as well as a mix of history and fiction. Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine through Netgalley for an advance copy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessica | JustReadingJess

    Sunflower Sisters is a beautifully written story about the civil war told from diverse perspectives. A wealthy woman decides to be a union nurse against her family’s wishes. She wants to make a difference and help those in need. A female plantation owner becomes in charge of the plantation after her husband joins the union army and her brother joins the confederate army. She follows her own wishes and gets herself in trouble. A slave at the plantation finds a way to escape by pretending to be so Sunflower Sisters is a beautifully written story about the civil war told from diverse perspectives. A wealthy woman decides to be a union nurse against her family’s wishes. She wants to make a difference and help those in need. A female plantation owner becomes in charge of the plantation after her husband joins the union army and her brother joins the confederate army. She follows her own wishes and gets herself in trouble. A slave at the plantation finds a way to escape by pretending to be someone else but has to leave the ones she cares about behind. I liked the different perspectives and how the stories wove together and apart. Sunflower Sisters is the third and final book of the Lilac Girls series but can be read as a standalone without missing anything. The series is based on ancestors of the main characters in the previous books. Sunflower Sisters is a great ending to a great series, but I am sad this is the last book. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, Shayna Small, Jenna Lamia, and Cassandra Campbell and they all did a great job. I loved all the different narrators and thought they did a great job voicing the characters and telling their stories. I was worried when I saw how long this audiobook was but it went by so fast, and I didn’t want to put it down. Thank you Ballantine Books, Random House, and Penguin Random House Audio for Sunflower Sisters. Full Review: https://justreadingjess.wordpress.com...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    Martha Hall Kelly has masterfully wrapped up the saga of the Ferriday and Woolsey women in her astonishing third novel, Sunflower Sisters. As in her previous novels, the characters in Sunflower Sisters were strong, female and well developed boasting lots of independence and minds of their own. The plot centered around the cruelties and inhumane treatment the slaves endured on the affluent plantations and the horrors, death and destruction on the battlefields during the Civil War. Kelly also expl Martha Hall Kelly has masterfully wrapped up the saga of the Ferriday and Woolsey women in her astonishing third novel, Sunflower Sisters. As in her previous novels, the characters in Sunflower Sisters were strong, female and well developed boasting lots of independence and minds of their own. The plot centered around the cruelties and inhumane treatment the slaves endured on the affluent plantations and the horrors, death and destruction on the battlefields during the Civil War. Kelly also explored the roles of female nurses during this time. They were often regarded as inferior by some of the doctors practicing during that time. The male nurses were sought after in crucial situations and believed to be superior by some to their female counterparts. Female nurses were often looked upon as inferior to male nurses. The female nurses fought an upward battle to try and gain recognition for their accomplishments and efforts. Kelly was also able to portray the widespread feeling of racism that existed during that time as well as the budding feeling of nationalism that was taking hold slowly but surely and could be seen spreading across the country. Martha Hall Kelly had discovered letters and journals written by members of the Farriday and Woolsey family that she used to authenticate many of the battles, places of interest and events she wrote about in her book. Sunflower Sisters was actually inspired by these true accounts and because of that the story became even more compelling and heartfelt. Sunflower Sisters was a fast paced novel that had me turning the pages as fast as I could read them. The prose was vivid and the characters memorable. I would recommend Sunflower Sisters very highly. Thank you to Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for allowing me to read the arc of Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Sunflower Sisters is expected to be published March 30, 2021.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alayne Emmett

    This book was nit an easy read, it was long which I don’t mind usually but, this one took a lot of concentration as there was so many characters and it went from one place to another very quickly. At times I found it not very interesting as there was a lot of chat and not much else. I know about the slavery in the south during the American Civil war but, at times it me uncomfortable reading. Not my thing. My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book i This book was nit an easy read, it was long which I don’t mind usually but, this one took a lot of concentration as there was so many characters and it went from one place to another very quickly. At times I found it not very interesting as there was a lot of chat and not much else. I know about the slavery in the south during the American Civil war but, at times it me uncomfortable reading. Not my thing. My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    Sunflower Sisters is the third and final book in the Lilac Girls series from author Martha Hall Kelly. The 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. The second book, Lost Roses, was about Caroline's mother Eliza set during the period before WWI. In Sunflower Sisters, we meet Caroline’s ancestor Georgeanna "Georgy" Woolsey who aids the Union Army during the Civil Sunflower Sisters is the third and final book in the Lilac Girls series from author Martha Hall Kelly. The 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. The second book, Lost Roses, was about Caroline's mother Eliza set during the period before WWI. In Sunflower Sisters, we meet Caroline’s ancestor Georgeanna "Georgy" Woolsey who aids the Union Army during the Civil War. It is not essential that you read the first two books before reading Sunflower Sisters as each book goes back a generation and this remarkable family’s saga starts with the events in this book. 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 stars. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nita

    So excited for this book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    The American Civil War is the harrowing setting for the author’s last book in her stellar trilogy, based on the true story of the Ferriday/Woolsey family. The breakout bestseller LILAC GIRLS started the saga; SUNFLOWER SISTERS ends it with a heartbreaking tale about the cruelty of slavery and the brave efforts to end it. Kelly presents electrifying POVs from multiple women who make SUNSHINE SISTERS come alive. Georgey Woolsey is a Union nurse along with her sister Eliza; vulnerable young Jemma i The American Civil War is the harrowing setting for the author’s last book in her stellar trilogy, based on the true story of the Ferriday/Woolsey family. The breakout bestseller LILAC GIRLS started the saga; SUNFLOWER SISTERS ends it with a heartbreaking tale about the cruelty of slavery and the brave efforts to end it. Kelly presents electrifying POVs from multiple women who make SUNSHINE SISTERS come alive. Georgey Woolsey is a Union nurse along with her sister Eliza; vulnerable young Jemma is enslaved in the South; and Anne-May is a heartless plantation mistress. From Southern brutality to NYC in tatters to the bloody battle of Gettysburg, we see their lives play out against the conflagration that split families as it fractured the nation. We long to know what happens to them, feeling we’ve walked beside them through hell, and close the book forever changed. Brava, Ms. Kelly! 5 of 5 Stars Pub Date 30 Mar 2021 Forever grateful to the author, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are mine. #SunflowerSisters #NetGalley

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Jackson _TheMaryReader

    Did you enjoy “Lilac Girls” and “Lost Roses,” if you said yes then you are going to love the final book in the Lilac Girls series. I have to say Kelly has a knack for writing historical in a such a way its like you are living it out. I might just go as far as to say she is the queen of historical fiction. Sunflower Sisters is not to be missed. You might as well read the whole series if you have not yet. 4 stars and highly recommended. The Mary Reader received this book from the publisher for review Did you enjoy “Lilac Girls” and “Lost Roses,” if you said yes then you are going to love the final book in the Lilac Girls series. I have to say Kelly has a knack for writing historical in a such a way its like you are living it out. I might just go as far as to say she is the queen of historical fiction. Sunflower Sisters is not to be missed. You might as well read the whole series if you have not yet. 4 stars and highly recommended. The Mary Reader received this book from the publisher for review. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are our own.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    Is being a helpful person hereditary? In the third installment of the Caroline Ferriday story we are introduced to the seven Woolsey sisters and their mother who devoted their lives to ending slavery and America. With poise and precision Martha Hall Kelly tells this story and gives a voice to these wonderful ladies. Breathtakingly beautiful The flower series as I’ve come to cAll it has ended but my admiration for these ladies has not!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    Martha Hall Kelly writes about the strong and determined women in the Ferriday-Woolsey family in the trilogy consisting of Lilac Girls, Lost Roses and now in this third book taking place during the civil war. It’s historical fiction, but is based on this true life family and the contributions they made over the generations. It’s impeccably researched and the author makes it clear in her “Notes on Sources” what is real, what is fictional and that the bulk of the story is based on the letters of t Martha Hall Kelly writes about the strong and determined women in the Ferriday-Woolsey family in the trilogy consisting of Lilac Girls, Lost Roses and now in this third book taking place during the civil war. It’s historical fiction, but is based on this true life family and the contributions they made over the generations. It’s impeccably researched and the author makes it clear in her “Notes on Sources” what is real, what is fictional and that the bulk of the story is based on the letters of the Woolsey family and that makes it so meaningful. The story is told from the point of view of three women in first person narrative. Georgy Woolsey, great aunt of Caroline Ferriday, whose story is told in the first book of this trilogy, is from an affluent, abolitionist family in New York. She trains as a nurse with the famed Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and with one of her sisters serves as a nurse attending the wounded . With a desire to stake a foothold for women in the nursing profession while up against the male dominated medical profession. Jemma is the young slave girl who could read and write, lives on a plantation in Maryland where the abuse is horrific, yet holds the hope of freedom. There are lashings, so much abuse, fear of rape, and for some young women slaves , the fear of having your child taken from you at birth so the baby could be sold. Anne-May, Jemma’s vile mistress at her plantation , is vile not just to the slaves , but even her own family and she gets more abhorrent with each chapter. The novel is reflective of the time, the war, slavery, taking us from Maryland to Washington to New York City to Gettysburg, from plantation to society dinners to the shacks where the slaves lived, to the battlefields and hospitals. A depiction of the our country and what it might have been like to live during this time. My only reservation is that at times it felt a little slow and drawn out, especially in the earlier part of the novel. It’s a lengthy book and could have used some editing to move the story forward. Overall, I enjoyed it, but my favorite of the three is Lilac Girls. I received an advanced copy of this book from Ballantine through NetGalley.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    What an amazing finale to the Ferriday/Woolsley chronicles. MHK does not disappoint. The book shelves are full of Civil War books that use the lens of generals or battles to tell stories that all seem so similar. We have far too few novels (any?) that portray the history of that time with unvarnished human truth and emotion-from a woman's point of view. These are real people during a real conflict at a time when our entire country stood divided and in peril. As usual, the hidden history is tease What an amazing finale to the Ferriday/Woolsley chronicles. MHK does not disappoint. The book shelves are full of Civil War books that use the lens of generals or battles to tell stories that all seem so similar. We have far too few novels (any?) that portray the history of that time with unvarnished human truth and emotion-from a woman's point of view. These are real people during a real conflict at a time when our entire country stood divided and in peril. As usual, the hidden history is teased out of real events and circumstances. There are some chilling parallels to what is happening today. As you read, you feel the pain and triumph of these characters that propel you on to the next chapter. I read it all in one sitting. Having read a ton of books set during the Civil War, I can honestly say Sunflower Sisters is unique and my new favorite. Bravo and thank you for the advanced reader copy!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly is an excellent historical fiction masterpiece that goes alongside her other two books: Lilac Girls and Lost Roses. This book continues on giving us the wonderful and unforgettable stories of the strong and fierce women that were a part of the Woolsey/Ferriday family. I truly loved Ms. Hall’s other two books that covered WWI and WWII eras, so of course I had to read the third book covering the monumental and fascinating lives of the family and friends that Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly is an excellent historical fiction masterpiece that goes alongside her other two books: Lilac Girls and Lost Roses. This book continues on giving us the wonderful and unforgettable stories of the strong and fierce women that were a part of the Woolsey/Ferriday family. I truly loved Ms. Hall’s other two books that covered WWI and WWII eras, so of course I had to read the third book covering the monumental and fascinating lives of the family and friends that surrounded Caroline Ferriday’s great-aunt Georgeanna Woolsey. Here we see the book alternating between Georgeanna (an abolitionist and pioneering Union nurse during the American Civil War, a female tobacco plantation owner, Anne-May Wilson-Watkins, and a female slave, Jemma, that lives within that plantation. This story is so rich with so much: the struggles and difficulties of women trying their best to become nurses, the atrocities of the battles of the Civil War itself, the harrowing deeds and heroes of the Underground Railroad, and the horrific events that took place in regards to slavery, slave trading, and the physical, emotional, and utter abuse that was forced upon so many innocent men and women that were slaves during this time. The author was able to take true heroes (and other historical figures) and blend them seamlessly into a fictional narrative that was so real, emotional, stunning, and jarring that just leaves me beyond impressed. I also love the Author’s Note at the end to give us a wonderful gift of where she pulled her inspiration, who these true life heroes were, and where we could find more about this amazing family. I loved all three books and am so sad to see an end to reading the fascinating stories of the generations of women within this family. I look forward to seeing what she has in store for us next. Historical fiction at its finest. 5/5 stars Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine for this wonderful ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR, Instagram, and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 3/30/21.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Janet Fiorentino

    If you loved “Lilac Girls” and “Lost Roses,” you won’t be disappointed in the final installment of Ferriday/Woolsley trilogy, the “Sunflower Sisters.” Martha Hall Kelly is a master at dropping her reader into noteworthy historical events while making the reader fall in love with timeless characters who will resonate with you long after the story ends. Here, we meet slave, Jemma, her master, Anne-May, and a New York nurse, Georgy, in a tale of the Civil War, the end of slavery and a way of life in If you loved “Lilac Girls” and “Lost Roses,” you won’t be disappointed in the final installment of Ferriday/Woolsley trilogy, the “Sunflower Sisters.” Martha Hall Kelly is a master at dropping her reader into noteworthy historical events while making the reader fall in love with timeless characters who will resonate with you long after the story ends. Here, we meet slave, Jemma, her master, Anne-May, and a New York nurse, Georgy, in a tale of the Civil War, the end of slavery and a way of life in America. Many novels have been written about the Civil War, even from the point of view of a slave, but this story is unique because of its characters who jump from the page with their authenticity. What is most admirable about these women is their humanity (even Anne-May), resilience and strength. The themes of this novel are especially timely as our country continues to remain divided over issues of inequality and social justice. You do not have to read the previous novels to enjoy this book, though after completing it, you are definitely going to want to. Thank you to the author, publisher, and Net Galley for an opportunity to read this novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Britt's Book Blurbs

    Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided. I was so excited to receive a copy of this book to review, having already read the first two installments in the Lilac Girls series. I absolutely loved Lilac Girls thanks to the three different POV characters, but Lost Roses had been relatively disappointing. I felt the POV characters the second time around were too similar and, even worse, not the most interesting Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided. I was so excited to receive a copy of this book to review, having already read the first two installments in the Lilac Girls series. I absolutely loved Lilac Girls thanks to the three different POV characters, but Lost Roses had been relatively disappointing. I felt the POV characters the second time around were too similar and, even worse, not the most interesting in the story. Sunflower Sisters has returned to the original formula and improved upon it dramatically. Georgey, Jemma, and Anne-May are three truly unique perspectives to follow throughout the Civil War. I devoured Georgey and Jemma's chapters, which always seemed to end too soon, and their stories were captivating in their own right. Georgey withstood the belittling and derisive attitude of the men around her as she first fought to be accepted into nursing training, and as she worked as a nurse wherever they would take her. She kept pushing forward to follow her own ethical code, willing to withstand the verbal and emotional abuse from her 'peers'. Knowing she had the benefit of her status and privilege to support her made this possible, but it certainly didn't make it easy. On the other hand, Jemma's courage had to withstand horrific abuse with very little hope to help keep it alive. The sheer amount of torture and loss she endured throughout her life would be enough to diminish anyone's spirit but it only made Jemma stronger. Anne-May is as opposite to these two strong, noble characters as possible without becoming a caricature of the embodiment of racism and hate. Self-righteous, her ignorance emboldens her to treat everyone with disdain and little empathy, even her family. Her snuff addiction and inflated sense of importance allow her to perform horrendous acts of cruelty with no guilt. It is rare to read about someone with no redeeming qualities but Anne-May is truly despicable. As much as I love historical fiction, I can't recall ever reading a story set during the Civil War. This meant that while I was prepared for the typical war story tropes, I wasn't prepared for specific dates or battles and it made it more interesting not knowing what to expect. Having perspectives from both factions meant you could see why people within the same country, sometimes even within the same family, were willing to fight each other for their side. Knowing who was in the wrong here, I appreciated the perspective of some of the characters who felt forced by their families or their neighbours to enlist for a side, and a cause, they didn't align themselves with. Even better were the subtle signs and sly actions of some characters who were working undercover from border and southern states to help slaves escape north. Though this wasn't the main narrative, it was definitely interesting to see how the underground railway, or just conscientious individuals working alone, could have been operating at this time. This feels like a very timely release, a different approach to the many published works over the last few years addressing racism and humanity. It doesn't feel sanctimonious or judgmental, just a captivating work of fiction about real historical figures, each doing what they believe is right as the Civil War rages. Other books in the Lilac Girls series: #1: Lilac Girls ⭐⭐⭐⭐ #2: Lost Roses ⭐⭐ Blog | Bookstagram | Ko-fi | Reddit | Twitter

  27. 4 out of 5

    KarenK

    I received this from Netgalley.com. Third in the Lilac Girls series. I found the history behind the characters interesting but this book didn't enthrall me. 2.75☆ I received this from Netgalley.com. Third in the Lilac Girls series. I found the history behind the characters interesting but this book didn't enthrall me. 2.75☆

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tammy O

    Martha Hall Kelly has become one of my favorite authors. Her characters are wonderful and she brings history to life with each turn of the page. Her writing is so rich, descriptive and captivating that I want to read her stories slowly and savor every detail. The Sunflower Sisters introduces us to the Woolsey women of New York during the civil war. I loved them all. Martha Hall Kelly used family letters and historical documents to tell this story of real women who were strong, good and determine Martha Hall Kelly has become one of my favorite authors. Her characters are wonderful and she brings history to life with each turn of the page. Her writing is so rich, descriptive and captivating that I want to read her stories slowly and savor every detail. The Sunflower Sisters introduces us to the Woolsey women of New York during the civil war. I loved them all. Martha Hall Kelly used family letters and historical documents to tell this story of real women who were strong, good and determined to overcome the obstacles of their day to support each other, the slaves, the soldiers and the people they loved. I want to read other books about them, now that I’ve read The Sunflower Sisters and the author’s notes at the end of the book. Many thanks to the publishers at NetGalley for the advanced reader copy for review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christy Martin

    Sunflower Sisters is an amazing book about true friendship, war, culture change, politics, and money. Set in the years that surround the Civil War it is about a real family and is based on letters that actually exist about an amazing family of women who are heroes in their own right. The main character is a young woman that is a personal slave on a tobacco plantation in Maryland. Her owner is a cruel and sadistic woman. This slave is surrounded by family and bears many physical and emotional sca Sunflower Sisters is an amazing book about true friendship, war, culture change, politics, and money. Set in the years that surround the Civil War it is about a real family and is based on letters that actually exist about an amazing family of women who are heroes in their own right. The main character is a young woman that is a personal slave on a tobacco plantation in Maryland. Her owner is a cruel and sadistic woman. This slave is surrounded by family and bears many physical and emotional scars from her severe life on the plantation. This book showcases not just the brutal life of slavery but the struggles and prejudices against women during the time period. Well-written, likeable characters, and amazing plot showcase the talent of Martha Hall Kelly. My thanks to her for writing this book. Thanks to #NetGalley#Snflower Sisters for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    I thought this book had everything a great historical fiction novel should. The author brought the time period, America's Civil War, to vibrant, visceral life. The characters were real, flaws and all, dealing with impossible hardship and tragedy, many based on actual people. I love that the author included photos and information on their lives at the end of the book. There was war, tragedy, romance, betrayal, heartbreak, and perseverance. This was a great read! Thank you to NetGalley and Ballanti I thought this book had everything a great historical fiction novel should. The author brought the time period, America's Civil War, to vibrant, visceral life. The characters were real, flaws and all, dealing with impossible hardship and tragedy, many based on actual people. I love that the author included photos and information on their lives at the end of the book. There was war, tragedy, romance, betrayal, heartbreak, and perseverance. This was a great read! Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for access to this arc.

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