Publication Day! Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly

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.” Google Books

Martha grew up in Massachusetts and now splits her time between Connecticut and New York City. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years and raised three splendid children, while researching and writing Lilac Girls, her first novel. She has loved writing the other two books about Caroline’s family, Lost Roses, which features Caroline’s mother during WWI and Sunflower Sisters, a Civil War novel due out March 30, 2021. You’ll find more info about the incredible, true stories behind both books at her website: and backstory about all three novels on her ever-changing Pinterest page. 

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Sunflower Sisters is the long-awaited conclusion to the Woolsey family saga featured in Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls and Lost Roses.  The Civil War and the issue of slavery in the North and South becomes the backdrop for this final and epic drama.

Sunflower Sisters unfolds from three points of view. Representing the Woolsey family is Georgy, Caroline Ferriday’s great-aunt; a patriotic Union nurse, determined to “rid the country of the scourge of slavery.” Georgy’s father, part of the Underground Railroad, died leaving 7 children for Mother Woolsey to raise.  Georgy’s chapters are woven with details of the lives of each of the six girls and son Charley. Martha Hall Kelly’s impeccable research using family letters gives realistic insight into daily activities and feelings of family members. A Woolsey family tree helps readers keep the siblings in order as the descriptions are read with “eyes peeking through fingers” of battles raging between armies, surgeries and diseases fought in hospitals.

Juxta positioned to the Woolsey family is Jemma, an enslaved girl on the tobacco growing Peeler Plantation, in the border state of Maryland. Jemma’s twin sister, Patience, works at neighboring Ambrosia, an indigo plantation. Readers will be breathless reading of the sisters’ escape plans and routes through the swamps, involving the monster overseer, LeBaron.  Jemma’s skills came from her owner, brave Aunt Tandy Rose, who taught her manners, and how to read and write.  Housemaid Sally Smith, the “root doctor,” shared her wealth of knowledge regarding herbs, healing plants, vegetables, and especially making jelly! The trials and tribulations of Jemma are difficult to read, but her tenacity and courage, along with her creativity and wit help her survive the brutalities and family traumas. Readers are blessed to know Jemma learns to love and be loved.

The third voice is that of Anne-May Wilson Watson, age 25, the Peeler Plantation mistress. Anne-May is a snuff addicted, self-centered, “mean as a witch” woman that readers will immediately move to the “character to hate” pile! MHK gives a vicious, spiteful, nature to this woman who deserves all she gets. Enough said about this awful woman. One more word: greedy.

From the opening scene of a slave auction in 1859, Charleston, South Carolina through battles at Richmond, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Chickamauga and Gettysburg-readers will experience the emotional toll of the Civil War. Between 1859-1864 there will be balls and weddings, hangings and battles, fairs and funerals. But in the end, there are reunions to soothe the soul and mend broken hearts. The Sunflower symbolism is a hidden secret for readers of Sunflower Sisters. 5 stars. GR

The Woolsey Family Tree

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