The tobacco wives A novel

Adele Myers

Book - 2022

In 1946 North Carolina, seamstress Maddie Sykes, a dressmaker for Bright Leaf's most influential women--the wives of powerful tobacco executives, uncovers dangerous truths about this lucrative industry in a place where everyone depends on Big Tobacco to survive.

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FICTION/Myers, Adele
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Historical fiction
New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2022]
Main Author
Adele Myers (author)
First edition
Physical Description
344 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

When teenage Maddie's recently widowed mother suffers a mental breakdown, she is abruptly sent to live with her Aunt Etta, a renowned seamstress working for the wealthy wives of postwar Bright Leaf, North Carolina, where tobacco is king. With the annual gala rapidly approaching, Etta is happy to have Maddie's significant sewing skills for the numerous gowns, hats, and accessories required for this see-and-be-seen event. But when Etta is hospitalized, the burden falls on Maddie's slender shoulders to design and develop couture worthy of the finest Parisian salons. Added to the stress is her discovery of a whistle-blowing scientific dossier that exposes tobacco's lethal health effects, some of which are already affecting people she is coming to love. In a town where she is the unknown stranger, Maddie must decide whom she can enlist to help unmask the cover-up that is keeping the townspeople and the world at large addicted to a deadly substance. Debut novelist Myers sets her activist novel in 1946, but the causes of workers' and women's rights are timeless.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Myers makes a sparkling debut with a coming-of-age tale about the limited opportunities available to the women of a tobacco town. In the spring of 1947, 15-year-old Maddie Sykes assists her seamstress aunt in Bright Leaf, N.C. When Etta is hospitalized with the measles, Maddie takes over Etta's client list, sewing gowns for the wives of the top tobacco executives. Mitzy Winston, Etta's most valued customer and wife of Richard Winston, the president of Bright Leaf Tobacco, takes a maternal interest in Maddie and invites her to live in the Winston home. The teen's initial enchantment with the town--its seemingly happy workers and uniform prosperity--is dashed when she stumbles on a confidential letter in Richard's study from a doctor who helped create Bright Leaf's new MOMints cigarettes, marketed for women, which reveals cigarettes are harmful to pregnant women and infants. Maddie then finds out about a cover-up and begins to recognize that the women around her are being unfairly treated, from factory and field workers to the executives' wives, whose contributions to the businesses go unpaid, and she considers blowing the whistle about the letter. The ending comes a bit too abruptly, but the fabulous fashion descriptions and Maddie's unwavering determination more than make up for it. Historical fiction fans will be pleased. Agent: Stefanie Leiberman, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Mar.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

In 1947, Maddie Sykes joins her aunt's flourishing sewing business in Bright Leaf, NC, the tobacco capital of the South, and soon becomes lead dressmaker for the town's most important women. She's puzzled, though, by the spate of illnesses troubling these women, and as she discovers its cause, she's in a bind: how can she challenge Big Tobacco, which rules the town and its fortunes? Debuter Myers gets a 100,000-copy first printing.

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