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The Tobacco Wives

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers. 
This was a very interesting story of a young seamstress who gets the opportunity to work on the gala gowns for the Tobacco Wives of Bright Leaf, NC. Maddie is 15 years old when she is brought to stay at her Aunt's house. Her mother drops her off and leaves, anxious to find a new husband to keep her in finery. Maddie doesn't really mind. She has learned everything about being a dressmaker from her aunt but has never helped her during Gala season. When her aunt falls ill with pneumonia, Maddie is forced to step up and take over, which tests her mettle in more ways than one. The war is ending and the men are finally coming home. Meanwhile, since they've been gone, women have stepped in and taken over to ensure that production on the cigarette lines never stopped. Now the company wants to fire these women in favor of the men. But what's worse, Maddie comes across some information that leads her to believe that smoking may not be as healthy as it's being touted to be. How can she get that information out to the public without destroying her aunt's business and reputation. Worse, without destroying the livelihood of the town? 

I listened to this book and it is very ably read by Sharon McManus and Janet Metzger, they imbue Maddy with all the innocence and righteous indignation of girl who is still young enough to see the world only in shades of black and white. When Maddie goes to a union organizers meeting she immediately becomes inflamed with passion for women's rights. She puts all her passion behind her feelings and is astonished when others don't or won't. It's a good novel, a solid debut and recommended. 
Thank you to NetGalley for the ALC in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you to the author, publisher, and Net Galley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked Tobacco Wives.  It takes place in a time period that I haven't read much about.  I knew how important tobacco was in the south, but not how much it affected entire towns. It broke my heart when Maddie's mom plucked her out of her bed and drove her to her aunt's and left her. I loved how Maddie grew as a character.  I also  enjoyed getting to know the supporting characters. The story turned in to so much more than just a young girl learning to adapt to living with her aunt. This book lets you into the lives of everyone into the town and how tobacco is king, affecting everyone.  We learn about the women who went to work in the factories when the men were fighting in WW2 and how they were being fired when the men returned.  This novel touches on women's rights. It also shares information about the health risks of tobacco and how little it was shared. 

While this is an adult book, I think high school students would like this book.  Maddie is 15 in the story, but has to make several adult decisions. 
I will be purchasing it for our library. I highly recommend it.
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The Tobacco Wives is about a 15 year old girl who is unceremoniously left with her seamstress aunt in 1946 North Carolina.  Maddie has been sewing with her aunt for years but after her aunt falls ill she is put in charge of designing and sewing dresses for all the local Tobacco Wives for their annual Gala. I had to put aside my disbelief that a girl that young could do everything she does with her sewing in order to enjoy the story. 

There is so much more than the dresses, there are all these women who seem to have everything when in reality they have no control over their lives. The women in the cigarette factory have more say in their life than the rich women although their jobs are threatened as the men return from WWII. The Tobacco Wives takes a close look at what women were able to accomplish and what they weren't in 1946. The underlying theme of female empowerment was decades off as the Epilog showed. 

Tobacco was king in North Carolina and when there is evidence that is may be bad for the health of pregnant women, the ones who profited from tobacco would go to great lengths to hide the details.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance Audio of this book.
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Applause to Adele Myers for addressing this important topic!


Author's Notes:
Adele Myers book "The Tobacco Wives" is historical fiction based on national tobacco companies misrepresented advertising aimed at women (inspite of medical documentation that it was harmful).  The ads boldly boasted that "social elites smoke as a fashion statement" and "smoking could help with loss of weight" even knowing that it was linked to cancer.  They ignored "disturbing factory practices such as using floor sweeping to make off brand reconstituted cigarettes '"recon for short"'   Additionally, tobacco field workers as early as the 1940's were getting sick from handling the "ripe green leaves" of the tobacco plants.  This sickness was called "The Green Monster".


The Premise:
Maddie Sykes age 15, is unexpectedly left to live at her aunt's house.  She is a wiz at sewing and begins working with her aunt making dresses for the "socially elite" women in Bright Leaf, North Carolina.  Bright Leaf is the "tobacco capital of the South".  Maddie realizes the ladies that live in the town are experiencing medical issues and figures out that it could be linked to tobacco useage.  She wants it known, but is caught in a moral dilemma that could damage the town and the women she admires.


My Opinion:
Is this audiobook perfect?  No!  There are a few eye-roll moments, but the story needs to be told!  I am still giving it 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on the strong important topic the book addresses.


Thank you NetGalley and Harper Audio for the honor of reviewing this fantastic audiobook.  I greatly appreciate it!  "The Tobacco Wives" will be published March 1, 2022.
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I really enjoyed this historical Fiction novel set in the south. This was good clean Historical fiction that showed women gaining power and the evils of big tobacco. But also some points made you stop and give pause. Over all I really enjoyed this book!!  Thank you NetGalley for the early release copy!!
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This was an okay book for me. I really liked the unique historical fiction surrounding "big tobbaco" and how women played various roles supporting big tobacco during the 1940s. That being said, I found that there were way too many "issues" the book was trying explore and develop... which led to all the "issues" the characters were involved in to be underdeveloped. 

Loved the narrator!
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This one didn't live up to expectations. The premise was great, but I didn't think the writing was that great and there were plot points that were totally implausible. How could Maddie just happen so slip and tell the doctor she knew about the letter, for example? Clearly, the book addresses an important subject and cover-up that happened in many tobacco states, but the execution was mediocre.
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This book is an engaging little romp through 1946 North Carolina through the eyes of a poor 15 year old who is just trying to stay afloat. Maddie gets thrown into an impossible situation of creating gala dresses for the town's richest women all while trying to figure out how brave she actually is. Myers helps us take a peek at what early feminism mixed with big tobacco may have looked like. It's nothing too deep but it does make you think a little. I think this one will go over well with the book club set!

Shannon McManus and Janet Metzger did a fantastic job of narrating!
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I really enjoyed this book, and the audio version enhanced my experience.  I often use audiobooks and the printed version interchangably -- audio when I am walking or my eyes are tired.  But if the narrator doesn''t work for me, I won't listen no matter how much I like the book.  This narrator really added to the story, capturing Maddie's character just as I imagined her to be.
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I listened to the audio version of this book and I am so glad I did.  Having the accents added so much to the story that I wouldn't have had if just imagining the voices in my mind.  I truly enjoyed this book.  It was a lighthearted telling of serious topics and I am so glad it ended in the way it did.
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Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow for an advanced listening copy in exchange for an honest review. (Kudos to the publisher on a fabulous cover that is sure to draw attention to this novel). 

This debut novel captured me from the very beginning. And after reading the afterword (wait until you read the novel to read it) I learned that the author's family comes from the tobacco area in North Carolina and she herself heard a lot of first-hand stories about the famous "tobacco wives."  

While the main topic of this book is indeed young Maddie's accidental discovery that tobacco is not as good for your health as every as always says (this is the 1950s), what I enjoyed most about this tale of historical fiction is Maddie's coming of age take on life and in the epilogue older Maddie's perspective on this one particular summer in Bright Leaf, North Carolina. The summer that would change her forever. Not to even mention how well the author weaves the issues of factory work conditions and women's rights into this story. 

*I take one star away only because I think it wrapped up far too quickly in the end and left me, as a reader, feeling a bit cheated. 

I audio format is well done and the narrator for young Maddie is a good choice. You can hear her wide-eyed innocence. The first half of the book is a long lead-up to the "discovery" and it bothered me that Maddie so easily put it aside for so long. But I have to put myself in the state of mind of a 15-year-old in the 1950s. 

I truly hope we hear more from this author. There was a lot in this book about the tobacco industry that I did not know and it wasn't a great shock, knowing what scums of the earth they are.
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Adele Myers novel The Tobacco Wives is a work of historical fiction . Loved the history of North Carolina tobacco lands and their wives in the 1940's. Her story about a 15 year old girl Maddy being left or dumped by her mother at her aunts house to help her one summer sewing the gowns for the tobacco wives big galla, while her mother finds herself.  Maddy's aunt falls ill and Maddy must weave her way through the tobacco and the people that run the tobacco empire. Rich with history of North Carolina the story held it's own. I was a little let down at the end when the story  jumped from 15 year old Maddy to 55 year old Maddy. Just a little disappointed, felt I was cheated out of Maddy's and the tobacco wives lives.
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I loved this book. It was about an era in time we don't hear a lot about- the tobacco industry in the south.  a young girl is left with her aunt after her mother leaves her to start a new life- as the girl settles in we are given a private tour of the tobacco wives private lives of the south,  How big tobacco was set up as a part of the USA economy.
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Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in both audiobook and digital copy for this fabulous book! I think we've got a hit on our hands here, folks! This was SUCH a refreshing take on the typical World War Two explosion in publishing we've seen over the past couple of years, Covering difficult topics, relatable and engaging characters, and great descriptive settings, I firmly believe readers will gobble this one up. 

To be nitpicky, the epilogue was a bit clunky (to the "I'm so happy you started a business here in x, where we are currently standing.' type of exposition), and the last sentence ended the book so abruptly I was left wanting a little stronger conclusion, but the heart of the story is extremely well told. 

As I mentioned, I co-read this alongside the audiobook, which was good, but not as good as the book itself. Ultimately, though, I think readers will strongly appreciate both and I fully anticipate this one being a big hit!
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First the good. The author has a long history as a journalist. Second, her mother served the tobacco wife community in North Carolina. These two facets lend a believability to the narrative. I wished for more nuance in the story but alas, it’s your typical historical novel. Thanks to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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Post World War II Bright Leaf, North Carolina is a town reaping the rewards of Big Tobacco. Budding seamstress Maddie Sykes has just arrived in town and is awed by the beauty of the homes, the women and the riches available after years of scrimping and saving. As Maddie settles in with her dressmaking aunt, she finds herself in a position to make dresses for some of the wealthiest women in town, the wives of the tobacco executives. Maddie’s dream is threatened when she discovers that the cigarettes everyone is smoking, the cigarettes that are powering the economy of Bright Leaf are potentially dangerous, even lethal. This is a fascinating look at a time when smoking was considered glamorous, even healthy by many. Read with enthusiasm and a genuine feel for the characters
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