Sunflower Sisters is a story of slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil War through the eyes of three strong but very different women.
Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly
The sharp divisions between the North and the South have finally resulted in war in the United States. Sunflower Sisters follows three women from very different backgrounds, showcasing both slavery and the Civil War through each woman’s eyes.
Ann May, owner of the Peeler Plantation in Maryland, and her slave Jemma are two of the characters. Jemma was born into slavery and has lived most of her life on the tobacco plantation. By contrast, Ann May grew up in Louisiana but came to Maryland after she married, to run the plantation left to her by an aunt. Even within her household, loyalties are divided between North and South.
Finally, there is Georgeanna Woolsey (Georgey) from New York City. Georgey comes from a family of strong women who fight for their beliefs. Not one to sit at home and wait for marriage, Georgey makes a name for herself as a Union nurse.
Sunflower Sisters is the third and final book in the Lilac Girls trilogy, each of which is inspired by true accounts and focuses on a set of strong women and their lives during wartime. Despite being part of a series, Sunflower Sisters (as well as the others) could be read as a standalone book.
I did find this one a little harder to read, at least at the start. It’s not because of the story or the writing. The book was well written, seamlessly flowing between the three women’s perspectives. It was a slow start because the inhumanity of slavery was it’s own special brand of cruelty that frankly was hard to stomach.
There is so much packed into this book. It’s a vivid depiction of slavery, and at the same time, a subtle tale of the underground railroad. It’s a portrayal of the Civil War through the eyes of a nurse, a slave, a family member. Sunflower Sisters provides insight into life in the 1860s, both in southern towns and plantations as well as in northern cities.
Despite a more difficult start, Sunflower Sisters, like Hall’s other books, was a great read.