Cover Image: The Tobacco Wives

The Tobacco Wives

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Member Reviews

Dropped off by her mother because she needs to find a man, the main character grows up trying to skirt the line with the upper crust and her society that she belongs to.  Along with deciding whether wrong and right will destroy lives.  Strong female characters in a mans world.
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This was an engaging historical fiction book about the tobacco industry back in the 1940's.  Having lived in North Carolina for 11 years, I was still fascinated to learn things about the industry that I hadn't known.  The story and characters were both engaging, creating a compelling read.
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Tobacco Wives is a fascinating look at the power behind Big Tobacco after World War II that has frightening similarities to the role Big Pharma plays today. It’s about the opulence of a bygone era, the influence of the social elite, the dominion of the region’s largest employer, and the gutsy young woman who stands up to them both. The book didn’t have the depth I was hoping for, and the first half was sluggish, but I learned a great deal about the tobacco industry’s fall from grace and the postwar culture of the American South. 4 stars.
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The Tobacco Wives by Adele Meyers 

Thank you to Harper Audio and Netgalley for the advanced reader copy of The Tobacco Wives by #Adelemeyers 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because the pacing and all content was very very reader-friendly and enjoyably entertaining. As a piece of historical fiction, I found it tepid. I found it odd to talk so much about Tobacco farming without a whole lot of racial differentiation (it was mentioned, but not discussed at length). I do know, however, that coming from the author's past knowledge of her own family's experiences, it was wholly appropriate. 

Great book. 

@HarperAudio @Netgalley 
#AdvancedReaderCopies ⁠
#book #bookstagram #reader #reading #booklover #instabook #booksofinstagram
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t was the perfect balance of post war history, fashion, the women’s rights movement, and the con of the tobacco industry. The setting was incredibly vivid and well described, and the main character of Maddie is balanced in innocence, ignorance, shyness, spunk, independence, empathy, and grit. Each of these women was robustly described where you could perfectly understand her individual strengths and flaws. I highly recommend!
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This book, set in the late 1940's, gives a picture of life 'on the homefront' when people are adjusting to the end of WWII. Women have stepped up to fill jobs in manufacturing and many are enjoying earning their own money. They don't want to give that up when the men come back from the War. 

The main character is Maddie, a sixteen year old unceremoniously left with her seamstress aunt for the summer while her mother searches for a new husband to replace the Maddie's father who was killed in the war, Maddie ends up taking on the dressmaking business when her aunt becomes ill. The main industry of the small town of Bright Leaf, NC is, of course, tobacco and the 'tobacco wives' are the most important clients. Maddie mingles with the well-off tobacco wives and with the women who work in the factory. She learns some sad secrets affecting women from all stations of life. The first glimmerings of the detrimental effects of smoking are beginning to appear and those in the know are conflicted about the truth and the town's livelihood.

A fascinating read for anyone interested in WWII, the women's movement, or historical fiction in general. Highly recommended.
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**I received an advanced listening copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

In this remarkable debut, Myers writes a slow burning novel about the era of tobacco in North Carolina, post World War II. Told through the voice of young Maddie, an aspiring seamstress, this novel is riveting and at times gasp-worthy as Maddie discovers some sinister aspects of the tobacco industry. Maddie comes to Bright Leaf to live temporarily with her aunt, who is the main seamstress for the “tobacco wives,” the wives of top executives and other important men in the Bright Leaf world. As Maddie learns her way around the wives and the tobacco factories, she begins to notice things are not quite right. What she discovers may just the way tobacco is viewed forever.

Myers writes that her research and discussion with family members who grew up in North Carolina during the big era of tobacco, and some of their experiences are written into the narrative. The audio version of this book is wonderful – I was so wrapped up in the storytelling that I did not want to turn off the book. I enjoyed the slow building of the story, with some elements of slight suspense, the descriptions of the dresses that Maddie creates, and the growth of Maddie as a strong character. Well worth a read!
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A compelling historical fiction novel set in 1946 North Carolina as one young woman grows close to the "Tobacco Wives," working as a seamstress for their dresses. As she gets to know these women and their husbands, she uncovers secrets about the true dangers of smoking, especially while pregnant. This was hard to put down and the best kind of fiction based on real events. Definitely recommend this wonderful debut! Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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There are parts of this book that I would rate 5 stars, and parts I would rate 1.

The 5 star parts: the narrator's voice is charming (think Reese Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama.") The bones of the story are excellent. I enjoyed learning about the early days of the American tobacco industry and the struggles that women went through to earn their rightful places among factory workers and boards of directors. The characters are well-developed and I especially liked the main character, Maddie, and I admired her perseverance and using her intelligence to make it during uncertain times; which is why the egregious blurting out of a secret that puts herself and her aunt in danger was just not plausible. The way the author presented it felt like immature writing. The secret is blurted out and Maddie doesn't even realize her mistake until it is pointed out to her. That was way out of character for her. That's where one of the 1 starts comes in. There are lots of better ways that the arc of the story could have presented itself. 

I just did not love the ending and I didn't feel it was realistic. I have to think that SOMEONE who knew the truth about what tobacco was doing to women, especially pregnant ones, would have had the guts to reach out to higher authorities to expose the dangers instead of waiting 20-30 years to act on it. Especially if it was someone not directly tied to the tobacco industry and didn't have much to lose. I think the author tries to placate the reader at the end, but it was not enough. 

There is an Interesting number of lgbtq characters in this book who were able to live their lives without fear of repercussion in the south in the 1940's. Happy for them - but again - not sure this is realistic. 

Overall, I see promise in this author-if she can find a better editor.
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3.75 stars! 

I absolutely loved the setting in NC, learning about the history of this time related to the tobacco industry, and the coming-of-age elements in the story! 

Some things that didn’t work for me were the pacing, the timeline and historical accuracies of the time period, and the way it wrapped up so quickly at the end.
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Prediction: This title is going to be a HUGE hit. It is such a remarkable book. 

Readers are given unprecedented access to the intriguing lives of the "tabacco wives", the spouses of a local tobacco plant via the P.O.V. of Maddie, a young seamstress. Maddie is left with an aunt in a North Carolina community built by tabacco. When her aunt becomes ill with the measles, Maddie must take over the family sewing business on the eve of a large party. Here she, and the readers, become acquainted the with large personalities and struggles of these complicated women. 

This book explores EVERYTHING and is a really interesting  meditation on power thru the lenses of gender, race, class, education, capitalism, and medicine. 

While this title is not "Y.A.", it would be just appealing to YA readers.
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From my blog: Always With a Book

Historical fiction that enlightens and entertains…yes please! I cannot say that a nice change of pace this was from the usual heavy historical fiction books I usually read. And what about that cover? Doesn’t it just grab your attention? I love it!

I loved the characters and the sense of place was incredible. I felt like I was right there at a dress fitting or walking through the tobacco fields and could feel the dust on me. It’s a coming of age story with a young protagonist that you just immediately come to love. But what happens when this young gal discovers a dark truth that will possibly turn everything upside down?

Being able to get a peek into what life was like for women in the 1940s in the South was so interesting. There was definitely a big distinction between the “haves” and the “have nots” and the author shows that very clearly. I also appreciated the look into how big companies manipulate information for the sake of advertising. I have to say, though there were many times throughout this book I had to pause and remind myself of when this was set because there were ads telling expectant women to smoke because it was doctor approved. What!?! But again, not only was this back when smoking was more widely acceptable, but this was set in Tobacco Country where just about everyone smoked. Setting matters and the author really does really well.

I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it. As I already mentioned, it’s not as heavy as the typical historical fiction I usually read and I really loved that.


Audio thoughts: I listened to this one and the narration was stellar! The two narrators, Shannon McManus and Janet Metzger, definitely brought their A-games for this narration. Their pacing and intonation was spot on and I felt they just made the book come to life. I was completely captivated by this story and had a hard time putting it down.
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4.5 stars rounded up!

This the perfect women’s history month book. The main character Maddie has a strong moral compass and always sticks up for what’s right even at 15. She is thrown into a new town and given so much responsibility. She is brave as hell and I loved watching her journey throughout the book. Maddie transitions from a meek girl who feels unwanted by her family into a strong, confident woman who leads the take down of a major tobacco company 💪🏻

This book is about how money, power and influence allowed big tobacco to sweep harmful data under the rug and take advantage of workers, specially women.The hold that big tobacco had on the South out the time is kind of unfathomable to me. And false claims they got away with were shocking. 

Maddie’s mom sucked. I’m so glad that Maddie had other strong women in her life to mentor her. I loved both Etta and Cornelia and their relationships with Maddie. 

My one issue was that I wanted more action against Bright Leaf Tobacco but I understand that’s unrealistic. The epilogue was perfect though. 

Thank you @netgalley and @harperaudio for this book. This is out now!
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The Tobacco Wives 
by Adele Myers
Pub Date: March 1, 2022
William Morrow and Company 
For the audience of Fiona Davis and Lisa Wingate, a vibrant historical debut set in 1946 North Carolina following a young female seamstress who uncovers dangerous truths about the Big Tobacco empire ruling the American South.
I thoroughly enjoyed the audio version of this book!  And our current political rivalry and related health risks, make me appreciate this one. “It might not be right, but just you keep in mind that it can be hard for folks to do the right thing when they’ve got something to lose.”

You will find fun, grief, discovery, love and loss in this inspiring and joyful read.
5 stars
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Interesting story of a young girl transitioning to adulthood in a small North Carolina town post WW II.  Maddie Sykes lost her father during the war, and now her mother  appears unable to care for her. She drops her off at her aunt's home, a dressmaker,  and tells her she doesn't know when she will be back.  It's her aunt's busiest dressmaking season, so she uses the already developed talents of Maddie to help her with her orders. The "tobacco wives" and families rule the town. Most of the jobs in the town are associated with the tobacco factories including her job of making dresses for the tobacco wives.  It's a coming of age story but also presents a moral dilemma. What does she do when she becomes aware of medical reports that state cigarettes may be the cause of serious illnesses and even deaths?
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I loved the relationship between Maddie and her daddy. My favorite quote in the book comes from Maddie, "Everything changed after daddy died, I resented all who outlived him" . I am a daddy's girl who would have loved to have had many more years with him and have caught myself harboring that feeling many times. I though I was a horrible person for feeling that way so I was relieved to  know I'm not the only one.  My daddy smoked ,his daddy, his grandmother and so forth up that family tree. Would they have got started had they known the risk? Once they were hooked it was almost impossible to quit. Thanks Netgalley for the ARC audio of this great book.  I think the narrators voice is very good at speaking southern slang and portraying the sweet naiveite in Maddie. Children were more innocent in those days than our present day and time.  Back then children weren't allowed to be around adult conversations and subjected to adult content through TV , video games and social media. I knew that folks weren't aware of the dangers of tobacco early on but missed the fact that some knew ( even drs) and hid it from us. A quote from the book, "Women put their confidence in drs and believe and feel safe doing what they say". Um, don't we all for the most part?! It's a very scary thought that drs  could and would put money going in their pockets over your health ! What would you do if you were about to see your empire crash and burn due to research showing it could lead to illness and death?
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An excellent read, perfect for book clubs and sure to be a hit with readers. After enjoying the book, I was particularly fascinated with the author's notes on her research and the connection between the story and her family. Thank you #NetGalley and the publisher, #WilliamMorrow for the advanced readers copy. Loved this book!
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It is quite painful to read about the tobacco business in North Carolina in 1946. As you can imagine, with the dangers of smoking we now know, reading about the infant low birth weights, tobacco sickness from the juices that leached into the worker's skin, asthma, lung disease, cancer, and miscarriages is just so sad. What's even sadder is that when these issues about the harm smoking does is revealed, the heads of the companies tried to bury this information because of their greed. They even went as far as to tell pregnant women that smoking is good for them, that it will reduce stress help keep their weight down. When a fifteen year old girl finds herself living in tobacco country, Winston-Salem, for a summer, she discovers all is not as it seems in high society. When she discovers that smoking is bad for people, will anyone listen? Will things change? Will the advertisements stop lying to people? For this fifteen year old girl, it sure changed her life.
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The Tobacco Wives gives you an inside look into how the better life lives. Maddie is a young woman who is abandoned by her mother and is staying with her Aunt, who is the seamstress for all of the Tobacco Wives. Maddie arrives right before the big summer ball when her aunt is hospitalized for an illness. Mitzy, the wife of one of the cigarette companies takes Maddie in and under her wing. Maddie finds a letter that states that cigarettes are harmful to both people who smoke them but also for unborn babies. Maddie confronts the doctor who said that the cigarettes produced in the United States are ok and the threatens Maddie if she goes forward with the letter her would not give her aunt the treatment she needs to get better. I was born in the 70’s and it wasn’t uncommon for people to smoke in restaurants, houses and everywhere you went. I liked how Maddie had a goal of going to college to get a degree for fashion and that at the end of the book that Mitzy did what she should’ve done while making her speech and turned over the information of how dangerous cigarettes are. This would be a great book for a book club to do. I am looking forward to the author’s next book!
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Thank you, NetGalley, for an audio-ARC of The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers, narrated by Shannon McManus.
I was excited to learn about life on a tobacco plantation and ended up being disappointed. Adele Myers creates a story based on her family history but changes important details. Rather than sticking with facts, Myers intertwines women's labor issues into a different time in history. I appreciated the inclusion of LGBT characters, but feel that during this time period in the south that they would not have been as accepted as they were. 
I did appreciate McManus' narration. Her southern drawl adds to the setting of the story.
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