The Tobacco Wives - an appealing coming-of-age story set in North Carolina.
It is 1947 and 15-year-old Maddie Sykes has lost her father in the war. Her mother sends her to live with her Aunt Etta in Bright Leaf, North Carolina – the tobacco capital of the South. Etta is a popular seamstress whose clientele include the women whose husbands run Bright Leaf Tobacco. Mitzy Winston, the beautiful wife of Richard Winston, president and chief operating officer of the company, takes an immediate liking to Maddie. As the company’s annual gala approaches, Maddie finds herself working to complete the gowns for Mitzy and several of the “Tobacco Wives”. The big news of the charity ball is the launch of MOMints cigarettes, which was created to appeal to women and features pseudo health claims by the town’s local doctor. The new line of cigarettes is being made by the women who are working at the company’s factory to fill in for the men who went off to war.
In this appealing coming-of-age story, Maddie discovers that behind the seemingly perfect lives of Mitzy and her friends is a company that is lying to the public about the health hazards of cigarettes. Maddie learns of dangerous work conditions and unfair treatment of their women employees. Author Adele Myers, in an impressive debut, draws from family history and research to create a post-war story of a young woman with a conscience who is much wiser and braver than her years.
Many thanks to William Morrow, HarperCollins and Book Club Girls for the opportunity to read this book in advance of its release. I had yet to read a work of fiction which tackles the cigarette industry’s efforts during this period to mislead the public with false claims and its knowledge of the dangers of smoking, so kudos to Adele Myers.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: March 1, 2022.
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