cover image Sunflower Sisters

Sunflower Sisters

Martha Hall Kelly. Ballantine, $28 (528p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9640-2

This vibrant saga explores the historical ancestor of Kelly’s Lost Roses heroine Caroline Ferriday, abolitionist Georgeanna “Georgy” Woolsey. In 1861, Georgy, 28, abandons her privileged New York City debutante’s life to volunteer in a nursing brigade for the Union Army alongside her sister, Eliza. Running parallel to this narrative is the plight of Jemma, a literate enslaved Maryland woman who, after being sold off by sadistic mistress Anne-May Watson, must choose between her family and a fleeting opportunity for freedom. After Jemma escapes her new plantation dressed up as a boy, she is conscripted into the Union Army. When Anne-May, now a Confederate spy, hears the news, she pursues Jemma for help. The strands eventually converge in the novel’s satisfying second half, when Jemma is taken in by Georgy’s family, while Anne-May obsessively searches for her. The vivid, impeccably researched saga briskly sweeps across war-torn battlefields, New York City, and Southern plantations, highlighting the struggles endured by her women characters. This page-turning work is sure to please Kelly’s fans. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners. (Mar.)