Martha Hall Kelly has written another novel in her series about the amazing accomplishments of women determined to make a difference. First was Lilac Girls which revolved around the efforts of Caroline Halliday to help gain freedom for women held in German Concentration Camps. Then Lost Roses about Caroline’s mother Eliza who was instrumental in assisting the “White Russians” to flee from the Revolution. Now Sunflower Sisters tells the story of Georgeanna Woolsley, a Union nurse during the Civil War, and her encounters with a Jemma, a young enslaved woman, and Ann-May Wilson the wife of a plantation owner who is left alone when her husband enlists.
Sunflower Sisters, like Lost Roses and Lilac Girls, deals with very difficult topics and offers up scenes and dialogue that are sometimes hard to get through.
Sunflower Sisters is set during the Civil War and focuses on three women, Georgeanna Woolsey (a heroine who accomplished so much) Anne-May ( the cruel mistress of a plantation in Maryland and Jemma (a slave on the plantation). The atrocities of slavery are so overwhelming it must be very difficult to write about it in a way that makes it readable but also stays true to the reality. While I did love this book it sometimes felt as though it focused too much on the Woolsey family (where they traveled, what they ate, what they wore) and not enough on the relationships between Jemma and her family, especially her sister Patience.
The author did an excellent job of weaving together the horrors of the Civil War, the accomplishments of Georgeanna Woolsey, as well as her sisters and mother, to establish nursing during and after the war with the unbearable treatment of Jemma by Anne-May. As with the other two books you simply cannot believe that someone could treat another human being so inhumanely. As historical fiction the book educates the reader about the feelings of Southerners and Northerners about the War, the realities of slavery, the treatment of women on a daily basis and especially those who bravely tried to provide nurses on the battlefront.
I highly recommend this book, as well as the first two – although it is not necessary to read the other two books before reading this one, as each focuses on a different time and different characters.
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.
Publication date: March 31, 2021