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Reviews of The Flower Sisters by Michelle Anderson

The Flower Sisters by Michelle Collins Anderson

The Flower Sisters

by Michelle Collins Anderson
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  • Apr 2024
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Book Summary

From the new Fannie Flagg of the Ozarks, a richly-woven story of family, forgiveness, and reinvention for readers of Kristy Woodson Harvey, Donna Everhart, Sue Monk Kidd, Jeannette Walls, and Rita Mae Brown…

Drawing on the little-known true story of one tragic night at an Ozarks dance hall in the author's Missouri hometown, this beautifully written, endearingly nostalgic novel picks up 50 years later for a folksy, character-driven portrayal of small-town life, split second decisions, and the ways family secrets reverberate through generations.

Daisy Flowers is fifteen in 1978 when her free-spirited mother dumps her in Possum Flats, Missouri. It's a town that sounds like roadkill and, in Daisy's eyes, is every bit as dead. Sentenced to spend the summer living with her grandmother, the wry and irreverent town mortician, Daisy draws the line at working for the family business, Flowers Funeral Home. Instead, she maneuvers her way into an internship at the local newspaper where, sorting through the basement archives, she learns of a mysterious tragedy from fifty years earlier…

On a sweltering, terrible night in 1928, an explosion at the local dance hall left dozens of young people dead, shocking and scarring a town that still doesn't know how or why it happened. Listed among the victims is a name that's surprisingly familiar to Daisy, revealing an irresistible family connection to this long-ago accident.

Obsessed with investigating the horrors and heroes of that night, Daisy soon discovers Possum Flats holds a multitude of secrets for a small town. And hardly anyone who remembers the tragedy is happy to have some teenaged hippie asking questions about it – not the fire-and-brimstone preacher who found his calling that tragic night; not the fed-up police chief; not the mayor's widow or his mistress; not even Daisy's own grandmother, a woman who's never been afraid to raise eyebrows in the past, whether it's for something she's worn, sworn, or done for a living.

Some secrets are guarded by the living, while others are kept by the dead, but as buried truths gradually come into the light, they'll force a reckoning at last.

(Inspired by the true story of the Bond Dance Hall explosion, a tragedy that took place in the author's hometown of West Plains, Missouri on April 13, 1928. The cause of the blast has never been determined.)


August 13, 1928

She leaned against the front balcony of the dance hall and shook her shiny dark hair in its neat, new bob, reveling in the delicious sensation of goose bumps on the back of her bare neck. Through the open door came the wail of Mo Wheeler's saxophone, bluesy and beckoning, while the plaintive piano answered with a seduction of its own. She smiled, realizing that one of her patent leather pumps was tapping the time with Dale Diggs' trap drum. She loved this new "jazz," the way it snaked through your veins and made you want to writhe and sway, to merge with that resonant, relentless beat and sing your blessings out loud. Amen.

And she was lucky tonight, wasn't she? Despite her mother's admonition to skip the dance: "It's Friday the thirteenth, you know." But her twin sister had practically pushed her out the door at the first honk of Charlie Walters' Plymouth—his father's car, actually. The gang packed in both seats tighter than ammunition, Dash unfolding ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. The novel's prologue, which takes place in a 1928 Ozarks dance hall, introduces us to many characters who still live in Possum Flats when the story picks up in 1978. What are your first impressions of Dash, Violet, Jimmy, Ginger, Hazel and the gang? How did your assessment of any or all of them change throughout the course of the book? Why?
  2. As Rose is preparing "The Mayor" for his funeral, she muses "Maybe we can't always be the person we want to be. Maybe not even most of the time." The not-so-secret extramarital affairs didn't align with his upstanding public persona Mayor's. But who else in the novel is not exactly as they appear to be on the outside? Does this cognitive dissonance cause any problems?
  3. Rose's position as a small ...
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BookBrowse Review


Michelle Collins Anderson takes the tragic event and creates a whole world of fascinating and complex people whose stories become part of the reader's world (Mary L). The warmth and spirit of Anderson's writing will keep you turning pages, laughing or crying, but always happy to be in the middle of the action (Carol S). This debut historical novel based on the tragic Bond Dance Hall explosion of 1928 is a multigenerational masterpiece (Dorothy S). The Flower Sisters is a standout! I loved this book (Marianne L)...continued

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Historical Novel Society
The perspectives of different characters dominate each chapter so that the reader knows a great deal more than Daisy, our nominal tour guide. The Flower women—Daisy's grandmother and her mother—are wonderful creations, strong, conflicted characters.

Author Blurb Donna Everhart, author of The Saints of Swallow Hill
Michelle Collins Anderson delivers what every booklover craves in her absorbing and exhilarating debut. Combined with an intriguing historical event and charismatic characters with deeply held secrets, the end result is a mesmerizing story about reconciling guilt and letting go of the past so new beginnings are possible. Anderson's talent is undeniable and held me spellbound until the very last page.

Author Blurb Kim Michele Richardson, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Anderson weaves a rich and poignant tale of a small Ozarks town's factual tragedy, its generational secrets and the juxtapose of searching and belonging. Vivid and evocative, this is a debut to savor.

Author Blurb Susan Meissner, USA Today bestselling author of Only the Beautiful
A vivid blend of sensorial writing, historical detail, and memorable characters await in this compelling, surprising, insightful story of the weight of long-held secrets and the resulting hunger for truth.

Reader Reviews

Dotty G. (Alpharetta, GA)

The Flower Sisters
The Flower Sisters is a debut novel centered around a true tragic event in an Ozarks dance hall in1938. This event happened in West Plains, Missouri, the author's hometown. To this day, much mystery surrounds this tragedy. The novel has a dual ...   Read More
Linda J. (Ballwin, MO)

"The Flower Sisters" Bloom
Starting the book, I was a bit unsure if it would fall into my "unfinished" pile. But Anderson's plot development kept me going. I am glad I did. Being from Missouri and familiar with the setting, I found myself completely invested in Daisy, Violet, ...   Read More
Mary H. (Phoenix, AZ)

On This Date In History
This book is a welcome into a family history, and as all families have complexities, this is no different. It is common place nowadays to invest in your ancestry to discover long lost relatives or your genealogy in order to learn more about your ...   Read More
Laurette A. (Rome, NY)

Unique portrait of a tragic event
I chose this book mainly because I enjoy historical fiction and The Flower Sisters by Michelle Collins Anderson did not disappoint. It is based on the tragic and true event of the Bond Dance Hall fire in West Plains, MO that happened one hot August ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Bond Dance Hall Explosion

large gravestone monument for victims of explosionMichelle Collins Anderson's historical novel The Flower Sisters draws inspiration from a tragic event that occurred in the author's hometown of West Plains, Missouri: the explosion of a dance hall packed with young dancers, the cause of which was never determined.

It was Friday, April 13, 1928. The Bond Dance Hall was located on the second floor of a brick building; a mechanic's shop called Wiser's Garage was on the ground floor. Most Friday nights, young members of the West Plains community came together to dance there. On this particular night, the band was playing their last song before an intermission around 11:00 pm when an explosion ripped through the building, resulting in flames as high as 150 feet. It collapsed quickly, burying ...

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