It is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin. I do enjoy a read that makes the reader think and ask questions. The readers may come away from it with very different experiences, but either way it will be a memorable one.
About the Author
Linda Smolkin always wanted to be a writer—ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an ad agency, where she worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. She’s currently working on her second novel, which will be released in Spring 2018. When not in front of the computer, she’s behind the drums (slightly) annoying her husband, son, and their 70-pound dog.
About the book
What if a 70-year-old letter from World War II changed the course of your life?
While attending Valor of the ’40s, art director Stephanie Britain stumbles upon a flea market selling letters from the war. She buys a handful, hoping they’ll inspire the redesign for a client’s website at her branding and design firm. She’s at first drawn by the lost art of penmanship, but soon discovers a hidden treasure nestled inside declarations of love from homesick soldiers. Stephanie enlists a coworker to translate one and realizes it’s not a love letter after all. When a shocking discovery about a client causes Stephanie to question her principles and dedication to her firm’s business, she’s forced to make a difficult decision—one that could give her peace of mind, yet ruin her career in the process.
Contemporary fiction with a historical touch, AMONG THE BRANDED explores family life, an unexpected friendship, and moral conflicts that make us wonder what’s more important: our livelihood or our beliefs. This moving debut novel by Linda Smolkin is a great addition for readers who enjoy books by Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Liane Moriarty.
Among the Branded is a story about family and making emotional connections even when there are no blood ties. When Stephanie buys a vintage love letter at a re-enactment festival called Valor of the 40’s, she finds herself drawn to discover the people mentioned in the letter. The letter is written by a Jewish woman trying to save her family, who are already embarked on their path straight to a certain death, however their then five year old son Isadore was rescued from the hands of the Nazi’s. Stephanie makes it her mission to discover their story and in doing so finds herself making the kind of human connection we all wish for in life.
Stephanie represents each and every one of us. Smolkin has made her main character the collective conscience, which is a bold move in a story some may just wave away as a tale of friendship. It isn’t, whether it is per chance or intentional, the author is asking her readers to acknowledge that the way we react in our generation can perhaps change the repetitive process of human mistakes and history.
Kudos to Smolkin for calling out France by the way. Quite a few countries like to whitewash their involvement in the Holocaust or try to change the narrative of the past. At this very moment Poland is trying to force the world and its own countrymen to accept their new and improved version of their involvement in the atrocities. Let’s wave at Switzerland too. while we’re at it.
For me the most intriguing storyline was the one about business over conscience. Every one of us has a set of morals and ethics we live by, and sometimes we are put in positions where we have to make a choice to follow them or not. In this case it is money vs working with an anti-Semite, a neo Nazi.
You might not be aware of it, but every one of us has probably bought or used the products produced or funded by companies with dark pasts or involved in dubious dealings. Ask yourself whether you would still buy the stylish fountain pen or school pencil if you knew the brand had a Nazi past (Faber-Castell), how about driving a BMW, VW, Audi, Mercedes or bought a Hugo Boss perfume or an article of clothing (those SS suits looked sharp, didn’t they?).
So we have to make a choice whether or not to fund the collaborators or firms like I.G.Farben, who used slave labour and built labour camps near Auschwitz or buy elsewhere because of their contribution to mass murder. To be completely fair one would have to acknowledge that these are historic crimes, but what if the brand was a known fascist, racist or anti-Semite now? Would you still give them your money?
I see outrage when it comes to the use of real fur, mass transports of animals and animal testing. Consumers making a choice to buy elsewhere. I wonder why other causes have more validity than the ones with links to or collaboration with historical war crimes?
We have a choice and a voice, instead of staying silent and letting hate rule our countries we need to step up to the plate and speak out. Let’s not watch the world sit by idly once again, as fascists scaremonger the ill-informed and repeat the past again.
Although Smolkin presents her story softly and with great care not to rock any boats, I believe the dialogue between the lines is one of great clarity. It speaks of kindness, compassion and understanding, whilst drawing a clear boundary in the sand when it comes to hatred.
Pub. date 28th April 2018