Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin is a book I’ve been wanting to read for ages, especially after I was able to conduct an interview with Linda about Among the Branded here. Consequently, I’m delighted to have an extract to share today thanks to fellow blogger and Random Things organiser Anne Cater as I still haven’t had chance to read the whole book.
Among the Branded is available for purchase here.
Among the Branded
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.
An Extract from Among The Branded
As I put Ripsie back in the closet, it dawned on me that our little Evan could not be fooled.
A few months earlier, he figured out his dad was the tooth fairy by comparing the fairy’s letter to a grocery list on the fridge.
When Evan was three, he knew Sveta was Santa after recognizing her ring accidentally left next to the glass of milk for hardworking Claus.
And because he couldn’t be fooled, it crossed my mind to borrow Evan, to bring him home with me to see if Greg, the love of my life, was being honest or diplomatic.
First, I’d ask Greg the not-too-serious questions, while Evan stood on the sidelines to give me a sign, a nod for yes, a cough for no.
Does my butt look big in these jeans?
Is my cooking really better than your mother’s?
If that went well, we could move to some more serious questions.
Will you love me the same way in twenty years?
Or, more pressing, Will I be able to hold it together when Jeremy leaves for college?
“Mom, I can’t believe you dressed up,” Jack said as I closed the closet door.
“Did I embarrass you?”
He gave me that what-do-you-think look.
“Who knows, maybe I found my calling,” I said.
He picked up the half-started spaceship and looked through pieces on the floor to add to it, pushing aside rejected colors.
“All the kids keep following me around.”
“That’s because they like hanging out with older kids.
You did, too, when you were that age.”
“Yeah, when I was young.”
I laughed hard.
That was one of Jack’s favorite phrases, as if he were a seventy-year-old man remembering the days of his youth.
The laughter stopped, but my smile remained.
How and when did my twelve-year-old grow up so fast?
Was it the time I blinked to let him win our staring contest over winter break?
My phone pinged, and I grabbed it from my pocket.
These days, I had to put all my reminders in the phone or I’d forget to take care of them. Everything was in there.
Change the sheets.
Take Jack to taekwondo.
Pay the bills.
Water the plants.
This time it was a more interesting reminder about our getaway.
We decided to take a short trip after dropping Jeremy off at college, and Jack would choose the place, within reason.
For the past few months, we’d been so busy finalizing college plans, shopping for supplies, stockpiling food for Jeremy, and now it was Jack’s turn for attention.
I cleared the reminder from my phone and asked if he’d made a decision.
“Let’s go to the Bahamas, to that resort in the commercials.”
“Sweetie, it’s hurricane season, and I can’t take that much time off work.
What if we hit a few theme parks?”
Sveta walked in, overhearing our conversation.
“Since you like costumes so much, why don’t you go to Valor of the ’40s?”
“What do costumes have to do with it?” I asked.
“You were so good as Ripsie.
Maybe you’ll want to reenact a war.”
I rolled my eyes.
“You’re joking, right?”
“Only about dressing up.
Jack would love it.
They have World War II planes, tanks, all that cool stuff.
And it’s near Jeremy’s college.”
“Mom, can we go?”
“Sounds interesting. But maybe something more relaxing?”
“You just said theme parks. How’s that relaxing?”
Jack had a point.
He always had a point.
He was twelve after all, and he was onto me like my expression lines.
“Okay, I’ll talk it over with Dad.
But learn more about it so you can teach me something new.”
I wasn’t much of a history buff but could be convinced.
Besides, the trip had to be Jack’s choice, as we’d promised.
We followed Sveta back into the kitchen.
Evan blew out his candles, and we passed cake around the table.
Some asked for seconds, and I thought, Why the heck not? You’re only four once.
I handed out more slices, scooped out more ice cream, and began to imagine Valor of the ’40s.
Did I really want to go to some World War II event to see a bunch of guys pretend-shoot at each other or planes take off and hope they wouldn’t crash down because of their age?
Hell, I was hoping I wouldn’t crash down because of my age, and I was only forty-three.
Jack sat in front of Sveta’s computer and scanned the event’s website while reading the schedule of activities out loud.
Maybe it would be interesting and at the same time take my mind off Jeremy’s departure.
I took a piece of cake and loaded ice cream on top.
“How come she gets three scoops? I only got two,” whined one of the little girls who loved me for my soft and fluffy exterior a few minutes ago.
I ignored her, giving my ice cream the excessive attention it deserved.
I’m allowed to have three scoops, my cute little friend with blonde pigtails.
I’m sending my first kid off to college in just a few weeks.
About Linda Smolkin
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.
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