Cover Image: Sunflower Sisters

Sunflower Sisters

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Member Reviews

I’ve said this before, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. I learn so much and am better for it.
This story takes place at the onset of the Civil War. It follows three main characters - a young female slave, her mistress and a young woman who becomes a nurse for the Union. I was engrossed in this book and also felt a lot of emotion as I read about how people were treated during this time.
I found the authors note about her research at the end extremely interesting.
Highly recommend this book to everyone.
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I love that Martha Hall Kelly wrote her Lilac Girls series in reverse order. This approach is fascinating to me. Sunflower Sisters is set during the time of slavery and the Civil War. Kelly doesn't hold back in her descriptions about the injustices of slavery and war. While each of Kelly's novels can stand alone, I love the connection between all of the characters and slight spoiler alert? All based off real-life people. Now that I've read all of her series, I'd actually like to go back and re-read them so I can explore the connections between them further.
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I read or actually listened to 35% of this book and feel I got a good sense of it as a whole. It was not keeping my attention the way I hoped it would. I got this book as an ARC through NetGalley and it's quite a large book, over 500 pages, so I decided to wait to read this until I could listen to it as an audiobook. But after 35%, I just find myself not caring to continue. I usually love books that take place around the Civil War, plus I really enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly's Lilac Girls, but this one seemed to be lacking something.
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I am pleased to read and review this latest book in this historical fiction generational series. In book 1, The Lilac Girls, we meet Caroline Ferriday during WWII.
In book 2, Eliza Woolsey Mitchell is the next courageous woman in this family, the mother of Caroline during WWI.
In this book 3, we are introduced to Caroline’s grandmother, Georgeanna Woolsey during the Civil War. 

I received the digital copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. My review is voluntary and unbiased. 

Like the two preceding novels, this focuses primarily on three major characters in alternating chapters during the same time era. Each of these books are stand alone reads. I found it interesting to read about this family in reverse order. This third book introduces us to the grandmother who influenced the generations that followed her. 

The author provides additional resources for those interested in learning more about this remarkable family. Georgy and Eliza wrote a book about their experiences working as nurses during the Civil War. The sunflower was viewed as a sign of danger on the Underground Railroad for those seeking freedom from slavery. The extensive research compiled for this book is truly a labor of love which is evident to the reader. 

The author provides another compelling story so close to being nonfiction that it touches the heart and soul. It reminds us that true heroes aren’t always on the battlefield. The fight for freedom and justice is never a lost cause for its people like the Woolseys who give us inspiration and determination to accomplish what seems unlikely.
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Martha Hall Kelly has introduced readers to one of the most fascinating American families, who have contributed so much to society, yet so few knew their stories. What a wealth of carefully documented information, so painstakingly kept by generation after generation, to allow this author to bring their stories to the masses. The first two books introduced us to Caroline Ferriday (and her WWII activities), her mother, Eliza (and her WWI activities), respectively, and this third book introduces us to yet more amazing members of this family...her grandmother and her six sisters. The books takes us back to the Civil War and one of the three main points of view, is that of her great-aunt Georgy. The other two main points of view, are that of a slave, Jemma, and her owner, Anne-May. This story brings the civil war era front and center, but focuses on how that time affected these three very different women. As people, we are so fortunate for the meticulous records, journals, and correspondence that was kept by this family through the years, which allowed this author to bring their stories to life for a new generation of people. I am thankful to have read all three of their stories.

I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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This was the perfect book to end this wonderful series. I’ve learned so much through the books, but this one especially. I’ve smiled and cried while reading it. I loved knowing that the Woolseys were real people and that this was part of their stories.
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Martha Hall Kelly has once again delivered a beautiful, heart-wrenching, and marvelously written historical novel. Having loved Lilac Girls and Lost Roses as much as I did, I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on Sunflower Sisters, and I was not disappointed. However, I want to note that this story is different from the others, and you don't have to read the other two to enjoy this one.

It's not an easy book to read as some of the characters and stories can cause you to at times feel deeply saddened and at others infuriated - Yeah, I'm talking about you, Anne-May Wilson! Whenever I read about slavery and the injustice and horrible treatment given/received during this awful time in history, I have difficulty stomaching it. Still, this novel told it in a manner in which you found yourself needing to read more in hopes that you'd see justice and improvement in some way. 

I loved that the story was based on letters from one of the families, and even when I despised the point of view of some of the characters, I recognized the importance of their roles in the story and appreciated that POV - Yes, I'm once again talking about you, Anne-May Wilson!

One of my favorite bits was being transported once again to another time, another war, and another group of women you'll have a hard time forgetting about soon after you finish the final page of this book.
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Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly is amazing!  The story is told through the viewpoint of three women during the time of the Civil War. Georgy Woolsey is part of a large wealthy family and she volunteers to be a Union nurse.     Anne-May Watson is the wife of a plantation owner on the Peeler Plantation and becomes a spy.  Jemma is an enslaved person on the Peeler Plantation.  These women experience the war in totally different ways!   I love how the author has so many real facts and true stories of things that happened during this time!   We learn so much but there's no test at the end!   One of my favorite quotes was "a person has to face things or just get stuck."   This novel shows the bravery of these women when pushed to their limits.   A must read for everyone who loves historical fiction!!
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While well written, it just to moved to slow and was too long for me. I gave up after about halfway.thriu because it was just too much of a struggle. Just didn't hold my intrest.
3 stars

Thank you to NetGalley and theAuthor and publisher for a copy of this book. The Opinions expressed are my own.
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“Sunflower Sisters” is the third novel  in a series of fictional books by Martha Hall Kelly that is made all the more fascinating because the books were inspired by an actual family that really lived, and, extensive research on the part of the author.  This makes the novels not only good reading on the level of historical fiction, but fascinating as a lot of the events and characters are based on those real people and the actual history they lived.  

The series begins with “Lilac Girls” which is based on the life of Caroline Woolsey Ferriday who was an American philanthropist known for her efforts during and after WWII.  Book two—“Lost Roses”—is set during the WWI era in America and Russia and is based on another member of the family tree.  The latest novel to be published—“Sunflower Sisters”—features yet another member of the real family tree from the American Civil War era.  All three books could be read independently, I think, and all three books have extensive documentation at the end of the novels about the historical era and real events and people they are based on.

“Sunflower Sisters” was my least favorite of the three, but was a powerful read.  It was my least favorite because the author did such an excellent job of not sugarcoating the American Civil War era which was such a difficult time that exemplified “man’s inhumanity to man” in our country.  And this made it a heartbreaking yet powerful read.

The book is told through the eyes of three women.  One—Georgeanne Woolsey—who comes from an upper crust New York family—becomes a nurse when the Civil War erupts and ends up in Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg.  Although she sees firsthand the horrors of both war and slavery and those Civil War battle operating venues, her character’s portion of the novel was the easiest to read because she was a character that was easy to look up to.  She was trying to take something horrible—war—and save lives.  

The other two sets of “eyes” that the story is told through are much harder to read because they are Jemma, a slave on the Peeler Plantation in Maryland, and Anne-May, the owner of the plantation.  Jemma and her enslaved family live in fear of LeBaron, the plantation’s abusive overseer and Anne-May who is very self centered and cruel—so reading her portion of the novel is quite painful even when the reader feels great empathy for her.  

Anne-May—who is forced to run the plantation when her husband joins the Union Army and her brother the Confederate Army (remember—married women did not own things in those days even if properties were left to them)—makes the lives of those dependent on her miserable and gets drawn into a network of Southern spies.  There is little to like about her character.  

What is an eye-opener at the end of the novel, is the additional factual information on which these characters and events are based and finding out just how accurate a job the writer did in constructing her novel.

The book begins with a description of a slave auction before the war in Charleston, South Carolina, which is witnessed by Georgeanne Wolsey’s mother.  The author documents at the end that it was based on a primary source document of Mrs. Wolsey’s real life witnessing of such an event a couple of years before the Civil War began.  From the novel:

“Just inside the gate stood a woman with an infant in her arms, another clinging to her skirts. She bowed her head and cried into one palm.
      “Do you know those young ones?” Mother asked the woman, her voice low. 
     The woman wiped her eyes, cast a furtive glace toward the platform and then turned toward Mother. 
     “My children, all,” she said, barely above a whisper.
      “There, missis, that’s mine on the stand now.” 
     Mother pulled her shawl closer. 
     “Dear God.” “That’s my two boys and my girl, Sukey. She’s not my blood, but I raised her. A good girl. Those boys love her fierce.” 
     The woman clutched her infant closer and looked about.  
     “You can speak with us, madam, without fear,” Mother said.
      “I expect them to sell some off, but I just want to keep my two little ones here. They’re too young to be without a ma.”
      “And your husband?” I asked.
      “Sold. Months back.”
      “Where to?” Mother asked.
      “Don’t know, missis. It’s hard having the old man drifted away. But what can I do? My heart’s broke and that’s all.” 
     Buyers crowded the platform around Sukey and the boys. 
     “Take off her dress,” one called out. 
     “Should’ve checked her earlier,” the auctioneer said. “You know the rules.” 
     The auctioneer yanked the girl’s dress down off her shoulder and then grabbed her by the chin.
      “Smile, girl.” 
     Sukey forced a smile. 
     “And look at those dimples. She could be a fancy girl one day.” The auctioneer lifted her hem to show her ankles and legs, but Sukey grabbed the skirt from his hand.
      “What’s the matter with her eyes?” one bidder called out.
      “She’s crying, that’s all,” the auctioneer said. “But she’s fine.”
      “Sell the girl separate,” one bidder said. “Six hundred for her.” 
     “Sold—” the auctioneer called.
     Sukey’s brothers locked their arms around her waist. The auctioneer pulled them from her and the boys cried and fought him with fists.”
“The gatekeeper approached and nudged the woman, babe in arms, and her young son toward the block. She turned. “I’m called Alice,” she said, as he prodded them more urgently up the platform steps.”

      “Alice slowly mounted the steps with her two children, gathered them to her. The auctioneer gave his usual recitation, suggesting a separate price for Alice and her children, and the gavel quickly fell. “Sold,” called the auctioneer. “One hundred dollars for James and the infant, Anthony. Alice, $900.” 
     Alice fell to her knees in front of the auctioneer, begging to keep her children. 
     Mother turned away in terrible temper, heading up Chalmers Street toward the hotel, and we followed, the misery of those sold still keen in our minds, Alice’s frantic wails echoing around us, her agony beyond sympathy.
     I’d seen that look before on Mother. After Father died, leaving her with eight children to raise. When we cried as she moved us all to strange New York City. The look that said, We will change this terrible situation. Or die trying.”

Thank you Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book and for allowing me to review it.  (Publication date 30 March 2021)
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Excellent, excellent, excellent. 

As a fan of Martha Hall Kelly, I was enthusiastic to read this novel. This went beyond my expectations and this is surely her best book yet. The story is long but well written. It takes you into the days of the Civil War from all sides - the North, South, from a plantation owner, to a slave, to those fighting with all they could - both on and off the field, against slavery. I was immediately attached to all the characters (even Frank Bacon) and could not rest until I found out if Jemma got to live the life she deserved and others paid for their cruelty. The story was so descriptive and though it is long, it sucked me in rather quickly. Some parts are disturbing to read, but this was real life at the time and its important to showcase the atrocities. The lengthy research at the end of the story makes this that much more remarkable - kudos to the author for doing the intensive digging to bring these characters to life. 

This was truly exceptional and a book that will stay with me for years to come. I highly recommend. 
I cant wait to see what Martha Hall Kelly has planned next. 

Thank you to NetGallery and the publisher for a copy of this book.
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Just Released on 30th March.2021!!

SUNFLOWER SISTERS: a novel ( Woolsey- Ferriday).
Martha Hall Kelly.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction.

This book is the 3rd installment in the Martha Hall Kelly's Tales of the formidable Woolsey Women.
Backdrop is the Civil War.

64 chapters, 3 parts, 517 pages.
The story begins in the 19th century..1859..

🤎 The story celebrates women who fought for what they knew was right and became timeless women ahead of their times.

It tells the story through eyes of 3 women, making way through the American Civil War. 
A country infested with slavery, these women find love, suffer great hardships even when faced with heart rending challenges and choices.

Martha Hall Kelly’s million-copy bestseller Lilac Girls introduced readers to Caroline Ferriday. 
Now, in Sunflower Sisters, Kelly tells the story of Ferriday’s ancestor Georgeanna Woolsey, a Union nurse during the Civil War whose calling leads her to cross paths with Jemma, a young enslaved girl who is sold off and conscripted into the army, and Anne-May Wilson, a Southern plantation mistress whose husband enlists.

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.

The writing style, character development and thorough research is worth appreciating. 

For anyone interested in reading more of these letters, many have been beautifully reproduced in the book, My Heart Toward Home, Letters of a Family During the Civil War, written by Woolsey sisters Georgy and Eliza. 
It is a lovely companion book to Sunflower Sisters.

“An exquisite tapestry of women determined to defy the molds the world has for them.”--

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Thank you Net Galley and the publisher for an ARC of this book.

Growing up, the 1800's were my favorite time period. I loved Little House on the Prairie, still one of my all time favorite series. I loved how the author flooded the book with information about the time period we were reading about. Sunflower Sisters takes place during the Civil War and tells the story of the Woolsey women, mostly from the view point of Georgeanne. 

It was so interesting reading about Georgeanne, her mother, and sisters helping soldiers on both sides of the war despite all the obstacles that occur. 

If you love historical fiction, this story is for you!
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Wonderful in every way possible! I loved that each character has their story entwined together. A huge fan of this author and this was one of my favorite reads this year. Great detail to historical events. I can't say this book didn't leave me in tears because it did! A must read for 2021.
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The Lilac Girls will alwayssss hold a special place in my heart. Absolutely such a beautiful story and I am so happy we are in the third installment. It takes a ton of talent to have me following more than one narrator and staying interested and Martha Hall Kelly does just that. I will say though, that while this story kept me entertained, I hope this is the last installment for this story. It did tend to feel a little over done at points. I feel like war stories are so difficult because you can only go so far, but I think we have done all we can with this storyline. 

With that being said, it was an enjoyable read and I just loved the fact that I could follow this family for so many generations! 

Thank you so much to Ballantine Books and Netgalley for gifting me the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review!
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I was surprised that I did not enjoy this book as much as the others. I really loved Lilac Girls and Lost Roses, but this one fell flat for me. For me, it seemed like the author tried to fit Georgy's story in 2 other stories. I did not care for Anne-May's storyline and only found Jemma's storyline to be interesting.
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This was a wonderful story, my only complaint really is that it felt, maybe a bit long, I think though this was really my own issue and not the book itself because I was reading it in spurts so it took me longer than a book usually takes me,  The characters were wonderfully written, I really felt fear and worry about Jemma each moment of the book and waited with baited breath, and I really felt  passionate hatred towards Anne-May and let’s be honest, tried to figure out what the heck was wrong with her psychologically. Slavery is such a shameful point in US history and I relished the opportunity to hear these voices even if their polar views were evident,
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Sunflower Sisters can be read as a stand-alone book. I haven’t read the first 2 books in the series yet and had no issues understanding character relationships.

The story is told from the perspective of Georgey -the Bostonian sister of 7 who becomes a Union Nurse in the Civil War, Jemma- the young slave who experiences so many traumatic events but still remains strong as a rock and Anne-May- the heartless, cruel plantation owner who wreaks havoc on Jemma and her family.

It’s always great to have a villain to hate in a book, it’s just so sad to know that these characters are based on real-life despicable humans and that so many suffered at their hands for so long.

The book deals with slavery told from all 3 points of view. It doesn’t shy away from atrocities but also doesn’t dramatize them in the story.  It was interesting for me to read the book and feel emotions but not be stirred deeply overall (no tears – and I cry at everything), as I had assumed I would be.  

Of course, my favorite story was Jemma and how she fights her way through the every-day horrors of slave life.  The bravery that she and her family display and the sadness that inevitably will envelope you as the reader.  

It’s a good read and that audiobook narrators did a fantastic job!

The Author’s note at the end describes her research methods and which parts of the story were based more on fact vs more on fiction. That was very interesting and I appreciated her sharing that with the reader.
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Although it took me a couple of tries at getting into the story, once I did, I enjoyed it. It was interesting to find out in the author's notes at the end that the main characters were based in a real family. I would have like to have known that fact before reading it.

I will not write a synopsis of the story; I don:t like that in other reviews. I liked the characters, but again, I wish I had known they were based on real people. The setting for this story was different from most Civil War stories. Most are set much farther south than Maryland. It was interesting to see the war in a different place.

After reading her notes, I realized the author did a tremendous amount of research, yet there was some of the book that did not ring true. I grew up farming tobacco, and no one could have raised enough tobacco to live on using just 3 slaves after some were lost. The author used the word "asswipe" which did not come into use until the 1950's. That is not a huge thing, but it can spoil the authenticity of historical fiction. Another point of confusion was that the number of sisters changed at least 3 times from 7 to 8. Hopefully, these kind of errors were edited out before it was published.

It ran long and bogged down sometimes. I would recommend it as a good read that holds the attention of the reader.
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FIVE STARS+! I did not know this was a trilogy and of course I am going to go back and read the other 2 books. For an Author to hold my attention for over 500 pages, astounds me! 
This was a difficult book to read, but it was hopeful.  The Author did an excellent job focusing on the women involved in the Civil War from nurses, to plantation owners to slaves. Each chapter brought a different perspective. 
It was clear to me, that the Author did extensive research on the subject matter. She may have taken liberties in certain areas, but overall, I thought it brought an unique perspective to the burden of the Civil War, to all involved.
I particularly enjoyed the banter and sarcasm between Euphemia and Anne May.
Page 76.When Euphemia visits Anne May, she describes,her needing entertaining and as an albatross around her neck.
Page 160. Euphemia to Anne-May. "A married woman associating with a man who has a wife and children, will not end well."
I was brought to tears when she addressed the horrific treatment of slaves. It also confirms the contreversy that much of what we read in the history books, was glossed over. This was truly a thought provoking and memorable book. I look forward to reading other books from this Author.

Thank you Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book.

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