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Sunflower Sisters  By  cover art

Sunflower Sisters

By: Martha Hall Kelly
Narrated by: Saskia Maarleveld, Shayna Small, Jenna Lamia, Cassandra Campbell, Martha Hall Kelly
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Publisher's summary

New York Times best seller

Martha Hall Kelly’s million-copy best seller Lilac Girls introduced listeners 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.

“An exquisite tapestry of women determined to defy the molds the world has for them.” (Lisa Wingate, number one New York Times best-selling author of Before We Were Yours)

Georgeanna “Georgey” Woolsey isn’t meant for the world of lavish parties and the demure attitudes of women of her stature. So when war ignites the nation, Georgey follows her passion for nursing during a time when doctors considered women on the battlefront a bother. In proving them wrong, she and her sister Eliza venture from New York to Washington, DC, 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 Plantation 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.

©2021 Martha Hall Kelly (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“A beautifully written, intricately researched window into the lives of women in a world we can scarcely imagine today.... Sunflower Sisters took me on a journey that swept me up in its pages and left me pondering deeper truths in the end. It’s a read filled with sisterhood, risk, reward, and plenty of fodder for book clubs.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Kelly’s prose flows beautifully across every page, bringing to life the women impacted by the horrific war that tore apart the country and countless families.... Much of Sunflower Sisters is heartbreaking...but there is also much hope and joy in the courage, fortitude and victories of those courageous and determined to succeed and survive.” (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

“A well-researched, realistic narrative.... It’s the women and their activism that tell the story of the struggle to end slavery. They become the real heroes of the war. Kelly tells this story without either romanticizing or sweeping over the horrors that split the nation in the nineteenth century and continues to do so today.” (The Spokesman-Review)