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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Flower Sisters

Narrators: Jim Frangione, Andrea Gallo,

L.J. Ganser, Laura Knight Keating, Christina Moore, Graham Winton

ISBN: 9798891783997

Publisher: Kensington

RB Media Recorded Books

Publication Date: 04/23/2024

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars ++ (ARC)



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.







About the Author



Michelle Collins Anderson was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up on a farm in the Missouri Ozarks — a place and a way of life that has shaped her writing. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism degree and spent the next fifteen years as a copywriter in advertising and public relations agencies in St. Louis, Palo Alto, Denver and Houston before pursuing a freelance career and teaching at the University of Missouri and Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. In 2013, she graduated with an MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.


Michelle and her husband, Clay, have three adult children and live in a 1907 brick row house in St. Louis, Missouri, with two cats and a border collie. THE FLOWER SISTERS is her first novel.


Connect with Michelle







Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.


Behind the Book & the Author

INTRIGUING QUESTIONS. INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW.



Chat with Debut Author Michelle Collins Anderson



Welcome to the third April 2024 #AuthorElevatorSeries! For the first time, a new voice in fiction, guest author, and master storyteller Michelle Collins Anderson joins us with her dazzling debut novel, THE FLOWER SISTERS!   

 

Top Books and Audiobooks of 2024! 5 Stars ++ Do not miss this treasure and the characters of Possum Flats, Missouri. From the stunning front cover, genre-bending, with lyrical prose, humor, insight, nostalgia, and characters you will fall in love with—ones that will remain with you long after the book ends. Highly recommend!

 

Join us as Michelle shares some fascinating behind-the-scenes exclusives from the book and up-close and personal fun moments from this talented new author!


Welcome, Michelle!






Behind the Book


Q. Give us your best ELEVATOR PITCH for THE FLOWER SISTERS?

A horrific, mysterious 1928 Ozark dance hall explosion kills 39 and the effects ripple through decades in this multiple-point-of-view novel of survivors and secrets — including a party girl who loses her twin and becomes an oddball mortician and a crippled Casanova who turns to Christ — uncovered by their hippie teenage granddaughter who raises some eyebrows... and more than a few ghosts.


Q. DESCRIBE your novel in three words or less.


Kaboom! Small-town Secrets.



Q. INSPIRATION: The spark that ignited the novel (or series). Where were you when the idea came to you?


My father sent me the non-fiction book The West Plains Dance Hall Explosion by local writer Lin Waterhouse. I was amazed that I could live in a town for 17 years and never have heard about this devastating event that happened to my community. I just had to write about it — but fictionalized!



Q. RESEARCH: Any fascinating research for the novel, or anything you learned along the way?


I had to do a lot of research about the funeral biz — both what it was like in the 1920s and the 1970s. Fascinating, but not for the faint of heart! There’s a reason my character Rose uses Vicks VapoRub under her nose!



Q. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: Your favorite character to write, and/or most challenging?


I love all my characters — but Dash Emmonds was the most difficult and interesting to write. He is a preacher who believes, like others in this Bible-Belt community, that the dancers brought down the wrath of a displeased God on themselves the night of the explosion. I had to fully inhabit that mindset to make him believable and yet, I hope, sympathetic, too.



Q. SERIES: Will there be a series? These characters are too good to end!


You never know. I had a hard time leaving Possum Flats myself!



Q. GENRE: What drew you to this genre? (crossing many)


I didn’t realize I was writing “historical fiction” — I just knew I had a good story to tell. I am grateful to my agent and my editor for allowing me to keep intact the elements of all my favorite genres in this book, from historical and literary to mystery and magical realism. Plus a little memoir, too: I was a summer intern at The West Plains Daily Quill while I was in college!



Q. UPCOMING: Can you share what you are currently working on or what is next in ten words or less (or more)?


Female moonshiner takes over family biz — and seeks revenge — when her father is murdered!



Sounds intriguing! Continue reading below to get to know Michelle, this talented debut author—up close and personal!





Behind the Author



FAVORITE THING ABOUT WHERE YOU RESIDE?

I just moved to St. Louis, where I was born and most of my family and husband’s family live now. I love living in the city, with so many different types of people and restaurants and shops I can walk or bike to. And Tower Grove Park is absolutely amazing! But best of all is being able to see my family on the regular, without the stress of holidays.


FAVORITE FLOWER?

Well, of course, I have to answer this one! I have always loved daisies… and Daisy is one of the main characters in THE FLOWER SISTERS!


FAVORITE COLOR?

Cobalt blue


FAVORITE HOBBY?

I love — surprise! — flower gardening and received my Master Gardener certificate in 2021.


YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?

I am definitely a morning person.


YOUR FAVORITE DESSERT RECIPE? (Include link if you wish).

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake – Credit to my sister-in-law, Carrie Collins.

• yellow cake mix (Duncan Hines moist)

• small chocolate instant pudding

• ½ c. sugar

• ¾ c. oil

• ¾ c. water

• 4 eggs

• 8 oz. sour cream

• 6 oz. mini chocolate chips


Mix cake mix and pudding mix and sugar together. Add the oil, water, eggs and sour cream and mix well. Add the chocolate chips last. Bake in greased bundt pan with granulated sugar sprinkled over the shortening. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan 1 hours sprinkle with powdered sugar when cooled. You’ll thank me later.


THE BEST PART OF YOUR DAY?

Walking the neighborhood with my border collie, Finn.


DESCRIBE YOUR FAVORITE PAIR OF SHOES.

My classic black 8-hole Doc Martens that I’ve had since 1995. People have offered to buy them off my feet! But I’ll never part with them.


A FAVORITE SPORT?

Tennis


A FAVORITE INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE?

The Novel Neighbor, Left Bank Books and Skylark!


ONE BIT OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE AN INSPIRING AUTHOR?

When you publish your debut novel at 58, it probably goes without saying that it’s never too late and you should never give up!


COULD YOU RECOMMEND ANY BOOKS THAT YOU HAVE READ RECENTLY AND LOVED?

The Husbands by Holly Gramazio; You Could Make This Place Beautiful, by Maggie Smith; The Fetishist, by Katherine Min; Foster, by Claire Keegan; Death Valley by Melissa Broder.


ICE CREAM: CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA?

Vanilla. I’m a purist. But also, it gives me more options for artistry/toppings… a blank page, as it were.


WINE, MIXED DRINK, BEER OR OTHER?

Usually a Marlborough sauvignon blanc. But some good friends recently threw a party for THE FLOWER SISTERS and served up a gorgeous Violet Gin & Tonic and a fabulous pitcher of Rose Margaritas… and I was smitten!


FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOK?

The Hole Book by Peter Newell. There was — and still is! — something captivating about a book with a literal hole all the way through it.


A CHARACTER FROM YOUR BOOK YOU ARE MOST LIKE OR WOULD LIKE TO HANG OUT WITH?

Rose Flowers — my small-town female mortician who “puts the ‘fun’ in ‘funeral!’ She is irreverent, speaks her mind and has strong opinions. But she is also introspective, acknowledging that she is flawed — and she loves her people fiercely. I am not as brave or impulsive as she is, but I admire her and know I would get a kick out of hanging out!


ONE THING YOU HAVE LEARNED SINCE YOUR DEBUT NOVEL?

That I can write more and faster than I thought I could! Nothing like a good firm deadline to organize one’s thoughts and time.


YOUR FIRST CELEBRITY CRUSH?

One of the Cassidy brothers — David or Shaun, take your pick!


THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE EVER DONE FOR BOOK RESEARCH?

Got naked for a hot soak and massage at the Buckstaff Bath House in Hot Springs, Arkansas for my new book about a female moonshiner & bootlegger!


A SMELL YOU LOVE?

Coffee in the morning. Especially when I didn’t have to get up and make it!


YOUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER?

My husband Clay and my kids — Benjamin, Levi and Vivian. And my mom, who died in 2011. She made it possible for me to get my MFA by taking care of my young children.


WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WRITTEN ON YOUR TOMBSTONE?

“The only stone she left unturned.”




Thank you, Michelle, for spending time with us today! This has been fun getting to know you and The Flower Sisters.


MICHELLE: Thank you for having me! I loved answering these questions about my life, my writing, and THE FLOWER SISTERS!















Praise


“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.”

—Donna Everhart, author of The Saints of Swallow Hill on The Flower Sisters


“A vivid blend of sensorial writing, historical detail, and memorable characters await on the pages of The Flower Sisters. Poignant, compelling, and surprising, here is an insightful story of the weight of long-held secrets and the resulting hunger for truth.”

—Susan Meissner, USA Today bestselling author of Only the Beautiful


"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."

—Kim Michele Richardson, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek series on The Flower Sisters


“Michelle writes stories with a big heart, on family and human relationships and the inevitability of change and loss.”

—David Haynes, author of The Full Matilda






My Review


Michelle Collins Anderson's dazzling debut, THE FLOWER SISTERS, is spellbinding—a stand-out, talented new voice in fiction! From a master storyteller, this captivating tale is full of scandal, wit, grit, dark secrets of the past, nostalgia, family, forgiveness, reinvention, wisdom, and second chances—with dual timelines and characters you will love and care for.


Inspired by a true story, a top book and audio of 2024. I loved THE FLOWER SISTERS! 5 Stars ++

OK, book lovers and fellow readers, hang on. You know I get long-winded when I am passionate about a book I love, so here goes.


THE FLOWER SISTERS is a fully immersive, engrossing, insightful story of home, family, and belonging. Richly woven, full of heart, emotion, and humor. Vivid and evocative, with perfect pacing and lyrical prose that captivates you from the first page to the last with characters that linger long after the book ends. Inspired by a true story with dual timelines from 1928 to 1978, you will genuinely be spellbound.


INSPIRATION: Drawing on the little-known true story of one tragic night at an Ozark 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.


1928: Possum Flats, Missouri.

Violet and Rose Flowers are identical twins. Violet has a birthmark on the back of her neck. One is quiet and reserved (an introvert), and the other is wild and outgoing (an extrovert). Otherwise, they are identical.


It is Friday 13, 1928: The Ozarks. Lamb's Dance Hall Explosion.

39 Lives Lost before the night ends. What caused the explosion? A cautionary tale.


The highly anticipated dance (my parents met at a dance, which blows my mind, being from the Bible belt) was to be attended by the older teens and those in their twenties. There was to be dancing, jazz, The Charleston, smoking, booze, and fashion, with plenty of young women and men ready to cut loose, plus more! However, this was pretty risque for this period, considering this was during the Prohibition in the heart of the Bible Belt. Some thought what happened was deserved due to the night's sinning nature and activities.


In the small town, this was the night of letting go. Everyone has their issues. Hormones are flying. However, there was an impulsive decision that caused an explosion, and before the night was over, there were 39 lives lost. One twin will not survive, and many of their friends and loved ones. Families grieving, trying to make sense of the night's events.


For the ones who survived, there was guilt and regret and a night that changed the trajectory of their lives. Some later became town leaders, hiding their buried secrets behind their masks.

However, the town never knew the secrets it was hiding until 50 years later, when a young girl, a summer intern at the local paper, digs up the explosion archives and brings all its haunting secrets to the surface.


1978. Possum Flats, Missouri. Daisy Flowers, age 15.

Daisy's mother, Lettie, is a wanderlust hippie who left home as a teen and said she would never return to Possum Flats. She and her daughter have moved everywhere, chasing dreams across the country. Daisy just wished they would settle down somewhere.


Now, 18 years after leaving her home in Possum Flats, Lettie drops off her daughter, Daisy, now 15, at her mom's house, Rose, the mortician and owner of the local funeral home. This is the first time she has seen Lettie or her granddaughter. Then Lettie takes off to California with a man and says she will send for her daughter.


Daisy is at a loss. She is accustomed to organic foods and city life and thinks these people are weird. She is stuck with an eccentric grandmother she does not know in a dead-end town, living above the funeral home with embalming fluids, dead people, odors, and terrible food. Daisy, the main character, learns a lot from dead bodies coming through and the juicy secrets.


LETTERS: She wonders when her mother will return for her. She writes to her mom (we get to hear the letters), but the mom never returns her letters. Throughout the book, there is an ongoing mystery regarding the mom's whereabouts until the end. Is she coming back? Hazel, the postmistress, sees Daisy mailing the letters and selling her stamps. She also considers the returned letters but cannot tell Daisy or open them.


ROSE: Rose, the grandmother and funeral director, is hilarious—all the characters are! You will laugh out loud as Rose prepares for the Mayor's funeral (he was with his mistress when he died in a compromising position), not his wife, of course. In the meantime, Daisy loves reading books and writing.


SUMMER INTERN NEWSPAPER: Daisy decides she can use her grandmother's funeral home and all the scandal to snag a summer internship at the local paper. She gets the job but is not thrilled about writing obits and the mundane events of the town. However, she meets a fun teen, Joe, the newspaper delivery boy, and her editor at the paper, who finally allows her to write about past events and explore the archives. She will get her first byline, and she is thrilled.


50TH ANNIVERSARY: This is where she finds the story in the newspaper's archives about the explosion at the dance hall in 1928. She plans a 50th-anniversary celebration and a series of feature stories.


OPENING PANDORA'S BOX: Little does she know that opening Pandora's box will change everything she knows about her family and the town's leaders. Possum Flats is not thrilled to have the past unearthed with the pain, regrets, and lies it has buried. Some think what happens as a teen should be left there, but Daisy is tenacious and begins interviewing. Some are ashamed of their actions and do not want their past broadcasted.


Then she learns her grandmother has a big secret. Nothing is as it appears with many.


Told from alternating POVs:

~Daisy: (Flower Child) 15-year-old granddaughter. Intern for the local newspaper, The Possum Flats Piscayune

~Rose: Grandmother. Town mortician. Small town owner of Flowers Funeral Home.

~Dash: Pastor of the Assemblies of God Church

~Hazel: Postmistress of Possum Flats

~Jimmy: Police Chief

~Smiley: Photographer

~Violet-Rose: Twin sisters


Some may have found their calling that night. Others changed their lives due to the horrific night.


SIDE CHARACTERS: Mayor Watson, Lettie, George, Ginger, Fern, Joe, Roger, Mabel, Betty, Myra, and more—are all part of the story that also makes it sizzle. Rose/Violet, Daisy, Dash, and Jimmy are so funny! They are highly entertaining! But beneath the humor, there are essential takeaway messages. There are some strong women!


MY THOUGHTS: Words cannot convey how I resonated with this engrossing and impressive story of home. It has it all—from the exquisite front cover, a cast of well-developed characters you will fall in love with and care about, an audiobook with a stellar cast of narrators that make the characters come alive (you will laugh out loud), pitch-perfect! I enjoyed it so much that I listened twice, read the e-book, and ordered the paperback.


I LOVED the ending and hope we see more of these characters in future books.


AUDIOBOOK: I loved the distinct voices of the different narrators! Jim Frangione, Andrea Gallo, L.J. Ganser, Laura Knight Keating, Christina Moore, and Graham Winton—an award-winning performance! Highly recommended.


This truly is a Fannie Flagg of the Ozarks! Multi-generational, crossing genres, perfecting the blending of uplit, suspense, humor, mystery, coming-of-age, rural small town, literary, historical, Southern, and women's fiction.


THE FLOWER SISTERS is for fans of Elizabeth Berg, Ron Rash, Jan Karon's Mitford Series, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Joshilyn Jackson, Heather Gudenkauf, and Kristy Woodson Harvey, with an added winning signature style!


Michelle is an author to watch. She has been added to my top author list. Get this gem on your TBR list now! Storytelling at its finest. I highly recommend the book and audio. If this is a debut, I cannot wait to see what comes next!


The novel is movie-worthy, an ideal pick for Book Clubs (discussion questions included), and a fascinating Author's note about the real Bond Dance Hall explosion that killed 39 people and was never solved.


THANKS to Kensington Books, RB Media Recorded Books, and NetGalley for being introduced to this outstanding author and book and providing an ARC and ALC. Also purchased the paperback and wish it came in hardcover format.



@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

My Rating: 5 Stars ++

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