The Tobacco Wives


By Adele Myers

The Short Take:

Interesting look into the vital importance of tobacco to small communities in the 1940s. However, it reads like a young adult book and some elements of the story don’t work well.


In 2023, it’s hard to imagine a time when smoking was ubiquitous and even encouraged as a way to calm nerves and lose weight. That’s when this novel is set. In a small town the power of a tobacco company, its executives, and their wives was immense. At the same time, the power of those who farmed the tobacco or manufactured the cigarettes was non-existent.

A teenage girl is dropped into this environment and put in a situation where she must work to please the all-important tobacco wives while she also becomes aware of the health hazards inherent in every step of the life of a cigarette–from growing the plant through taking that first puff.

Myers’ descriptions of the tobacco processes are as fascinating as they are scary. However, the relationships between the girl and the town’s wealthy families doesn’t feel in the least bit real. It’s all too forced.

But it’s the writing that takes the book down several pegs. Contemporary language intrudes too often and overall the writing lacks finesse. A stronger edit could have improved this book substantially.

A Little Plot:

Maddie’s mother unceremoniously abandons her at her aunt’s house and leaves in search of a new husband. Aunt Etta is an in-demand seamstress to the tobacco wives and Maddie has serious sewing skills, too. But soon her skills are tested in ways she never imagined and her future becomes precarious.

For more about this book and it’s author click here.

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January 2023