Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Harvest of Thorns

Title:  A Harvest of Thorns
Author:  Corban Addison
Publication Information:  Thomas Nelson. 2016. 400 pages.
ISBN:  0718042387 / 978-0718042387

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The sparks danced life fireflies in the semi-dark of the storeroom."

Favorite Quote:  "The hardest stories are like the people who tell them ... You have to given them room to breathe."

"Supply chains" sounds like a dry, uninteresting business term. Why would you want to read a book about that? When you go shopping, do you look at where things are made - America, Bangladesh,  Malaysia, Jordan, and virtually all over the world. Do you ever wonder why? Or how? Or by whom? If you have ever asked that question, you have asked about the supply chain - where an idea for a product originates to where it is made to where it is finally sold to you, the consumer.

As a consumer, should you know where the things you buy come from? Should you care? Do you know? These are some of the questions this story tackles. Yes, the story is a dramatic fictional story, but the issues are documented and very real. Corbin Addison's first book A Walk Across the Sun tackled the issue of human trafficking and the sex trade. This book applies that same level of research and intensity to the abuse of workers in the pursuit of manufacturing profits. In particular, the book looks are the manufacture of clothing for American brands in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Jordan.

The book does not present the story through the eyes of the victims but rather through two different American perspectives - an industry insider and a journalist. Cameron Alexander is an attorney for Presto Omnishops Corporation, one of America' s largest retailers. The company prides itself on bringing reasonably priced, good quality merchandise to the middle class consumers. Joshua Griswold is an award winning journalist who lost his journalism career to one mistake. Cameron's job is to protect his company. Joshua wants to seek the truth and find redemption in the eyes of his family and his colleagues.

Through their eyes, the reader sees Presto's supply chain and all the issues that underlie the goal of good quality and low cost merchandise. The book introduces three of the victims. Sonia is a teenager, who jumps out of a workroom window to escape a factory fire in Bangladesh. She survives but with life altering permanent injuries. Jashel leaves his native Bangladesh for Malaysia based on the dream of work and financial security sold by a recruiter; he finds himself a virtual slave. Alya, leaves Bangladesh for Jordan and works tirelessly to be able to support her family back home; sadly, her "work" extends to suffering sexual abuse by supervisors. In other words, a supply chain is not a thing; it is made up of people.

The huge question at the heart of this book is the responsibility of the American brand. Are they responsible for the way in which their clothes are made? Do they even know how? Should they? The answer given is a resounding yes. It is the responsibility of the consumer, the brand, the manufacturer, and on down the line. Putting this conversation in a fictional setting allows that message to be conveyed in a dramatic, emotional way and to a much wider audience than a nonfiction book on the topic might. If it gets one reader to pay attention the next time he or she buys a piece of clothing, then it succeeds in its mission. I know that I will remember the names of the characters and their stories.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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