A Harvest of Thorns
by Corban Addison
A beloved American corporation with an explosive secret. A disgraced former journalist looking for redemption. A corporate executive with nothing left to lose.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, a garment factory burns to the ground, claiming the lives of hundreds of workers, mostly young women. Amid the rubble, a bystander captures a heart-stopping photograph—a teenage girl lying in the dirt, her body broken by a multi-story fall, and over her mouth a mask of fabric bearing the label of one of America’s largest retailers, Presto Omnishops Corporation.
Eight thousand miles away, at Presto’s headquarters in Virginia, Cameron Alexander, the company’s long-time general counsel, watches the media coverage of the fire in horror, wondering if the damage can be contained. When the photo goes viral, fanning the flames of a decades old controversy about sweatshops, labor rights, and the ethics of globalization, he launches an investigation into the disaster that will reach farther than he could ever imagine – and threaten everything he has left in the world.
A year later, in Washington, D.C., Joshua Griswold, a disgraced former journalist from the Washington Post, receives an anonymous summons from a corporate whistleblower who offers him confidential information about Presto and the fire. For Griswold, the challenge of exposing Presto’s culpability is irresistible, as is the chance, however slight, at redemption. Deploying his old journalistic skills, he builds a historic case against Presto, setting the stage for a war in the courtroom and in the media that Griswold is determined to win—both to salvage his reputation and to provoke a revolution of conscience in Presto’s boardroom that could transform the fashion industry across the globe.
5+ of 5 Stars
For me, reading this book frequently felt like having my heart ripped out, and somehow I loved it. Perspective primarily alternates between Cameron the lawyer and Joshua the journalist but occasionally we get a chapter through the eyes of the people working in these factories. I anticipated this novel to be full of emotion but didn’t expect how deep that would go or how many different issues sweatshops can contain.
What made this story so touching for me was the depth of each and every character, even those who worked at Presto. I expected it to be easy to vilify specific people, to find one link in the chain of manufacturing that needs to be fixed. Instead, this story examines how it’s not one store or one area that has become corrupt but an entire system that has evolved in such a way as to not only encourage but reward the abuse of its weakest members.
I went in with the anticipation that this would be a book kind of like the movie Philadephia (which I adore). I expected a story of triumph over evil that I could relish in but probably not take to heart in my own life. While there is bit of that triumph in the way this story wraps up, it’s done in a way that addresses the fact that none of the issues addressed are endemic. I felt utterly shocked by the number of topics brought up including child labor, human trafficking, sexual assault, lack of medical care, and chosen ignorance and apathy.
My mind wants a single target to shake my finger at but this book doesn’t give me that. I highly encourage everyone to read this story and then discuss it. I don’t know how this will change the way I shop and look at stores but I’m willing to start the conversation with myself and others in a way that I hadn’t even thought of before.
Some Additional Resources
- Slavery Footprint – Find out how many slaves work for you based on things you currently own. My score was 21, I’m hoping to reduce that!
- Made in a Free World
- Fashion Revolution
- The True Cost Movie (You can also watch this on Netflix!)
Big thanks to both Thomas Nelson and BookLookBloggers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.