This historical debut set in 1946 North Carolina follows a young female seamstress who uncovers dangerous truths about the Big Tobacco empire ruling the American South.
Maddie Sykes has just arrived in Bright Leaf, North Carolina—the tobacco capital of the South—where her aunt has a thriving sewing business. She is dazzled by the bustle of the crisply uniformed female factory workers, the palatial homes, and, most of all, her aunt’s clientele: the wives of the powerful tobacco executives. But she soon learns the town isn’t quite the carefree paradise; it seems a trail of misfortune follows many of the women, including substantial health problems. 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.
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.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Readalike Authors: Fiona Davis and Lisa Wingate