Artist: Joel Sager

“Michelle has a knack for establishing a fraught situation.”
— Debra Spark, author, Curious Attractions: Essays on Fiction Writing

Novel — The Flower Sisters

The Flower Sisters is a historical novel loosely based around the explosion of the town dance hall in West Plains, Missouri, in 1928. The devastating blast killed 39 people and injured 22 others in this small Ozarks town of 3,000 — renamed “Possum Flats” in the novel — which meant nearly everyone knew or was related to someone who died. The cause of the explosion has remained a mystery, although religious townspeople of the time blamed the wrath of a God who forbid drinking, dancing and other immoral behavior in Prohibition-era Missouri.

The novel imagines the lives of twin sisters Rose and Violet Flowers as they ready for the dance that fateful night. When her sister is killed in the explosion, Rose makes an impetuous, life-altering decision to avoid the consequences of her own poor choices. Of course, she cannot know — in her youth and naiveté — what that decision will cost her and those closest to her over the coming years and decades.

After a brief prologue, the story begins fifty years after the blast, circa 1978, and is narrated by three main characters: Possum Flats’ funeral home director and force of nature Rose Flowers (the surviving twin); Daisy, her 15-year-old granddaughter who has been dumped off in Possum Flats by Rose’s estranged daughter and who investigates the explosion at her summer newspaper job; and Brother Paul (Dash) Emmonds, a second-generation evangelical preacher who came to his calling when he survived the blast, converting from his hedonistic ways into a hard and unrelenting conscience for his family, flock and community in the decades since.

As Daisy discovers the stories and secrets that surround the explosion, the town and its inhabitants — including the reluctantly heroic police chief, the permanently scarred postmistress and other assorted characters and survivors — she finds out things about herself, her grandmother and her new community that change the course of Possum Flats forever. The Flower Sisters is a novel about how we lose, discover and constantly remake ourselves in our lifelong quest for love and acceptance, reconciliation… and even redemption.

Read the prologue here »