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Local History

Discover the beautiful towns of Westerly, RI and Stonington, CT.

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Virtual Author Talk with Martha Hall Kelly | Sunflower Sisters

Please join us for a Virtual Author Talk with Martha Hall Kelly! She will be discussing her upcoming book Sunflower Sisters, followed by a Q & A.

Registration is required for this event. Please register by Wednesday, April 7th. You will receive a Zoom invitation the morning of the program.

For questions, please contact Amanda at awagner@westerlylibrary.org

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 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.

 

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, D.C., 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.

 

Martha Hall Kelly is the New York Times bestselling author of three books: her debut novel, international blockbuster Lilac Girls, and the prequels Lost Roses and Sunflower Sisters. Never an enthusiastic history student in school, Martha developed a passion for it when she discovered the long-buried story of how Caroline Ferriday, a New York socialite and philanthropist who championed the cause of a group of Polish women nicknamed the Rabbits and experimented upon by Nazi doctors at the all-female Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.

Martha is a former copywriter and lives on a hay farm in Litchfield County Connecticut with her husband Michael, their practically human dog Oliver, two beavers and several muskrats. She has journalism degrees from Syracuse and Northwestern Universities and her books have been published in 49 languages.

Her latest novel Sunflower Sisters, the story of Caroline Ferriday’s great aunt’s fight to become a nurse during the Civil War and the family’s fight against slavery, was described by Kirkus Reviews as having “Historical verisimilitude worthy of a Ken Burns documentary but oh so much more lurid,” and once she looked up the actual definition of lurid, was very happy.

She is currently working on two new books, a Cold War novel set in the 1950s and a super scary, contemporary thriller set in her own house, which makes it very hard to sleep some nights.

We've partnered with the Friends of the Library and Savoy for this event. Books purchased here will come with a signed bookplate by the author! Please mention the Westerly Library if you're going directly into the store to purchase a copy!



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