Monday, April 15, 2024

*Review* The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers


Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: March 1, 2022
Pages: 349

North Carolina, 1946. One woman. A discovery that could rewrite history.

Maddie Sykes is a burgeoning seamstress who’s just arrived in Bright Leaf, North Carolina—the tobacco capital of the South—where her aunt has a thriving sewing business. After years of war rations and shortages, Bright Leaf is a prosperous wonderland in full technicolor bloom, and Maddie is dazzled by the bustle of the crisply uniformed female factory workers, the palatial homes, and, most of all, her aunt’s glossiest clientele: the wives of the powerful tobacco executives.

But she soon learns that Bright Leaf isn’t quite the carefree paradise that it seems. A trail of misfortune follows many of the women, including substantial health problems, and although Maddie is quick to believe that this is a coincidence, she inadvertently uncovers evidence that suggests otherwise.

Maddie wants to report what she knows, but in a town where everyone depends on Big Tobacco to survive, she doesn’t know who she can trust—and fears that exposing the truth may destroy the lives of the proud, strong women with whom she has forged strong bonds.

Shedding light on the hidden history of women’s activism during the post-war period, at its heart, The Tobacco Wives is a deeply human, emotionally satisfying, and dramatic novel about the power of female connection and the importance of seeking truth.

I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program. This is my honest review. 

The beginning of this story reminded me a lot of the way I felt reading Where the Crawdads Sing. Both books are set in the south, several decades ago, and feature girls abandoned by their parents. The stories behind the abandonment are quite different, but equally believable. And Maddie's story feels less tragic as she was left with her father's aunt who loves her as her own child. 

I loved seeing the way Maddie grew as a person in the time leading up to the gala and the way the different tobacco wives helped her come into her own. The influence of one was particularly surprising, but in a very good way. I think if I did not have more in common with the wives, I would have felt like I was on the journey with Maddie. This could be an interesting choice for a mother-daughter bookclub (if that's even a thing). 

I enjoyed seeing the way different classes of women handled the prospect of the men returning from war, expecting their jobs back. I was furious about the men's attitude towards most things, but this was a very female focused book. Overall I give The Tobacco Wives 4.58337 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Adele Myers grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently works in advertising and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, son, and their rescue dog, Chipper. The Tobacco Wives is her first novel. Learn more at

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