A Harvest of Thorns weaves together storylines of a corporate attorney and a disgraced journalist, both with turbulent pasts and uncertain futures, until a lethal factory fire in Bangladesh brings issues of unsafe conditions, forced and slave labor, and endemic corruption to light. The subject is compelling and the story serves it well, bringing the corporate and factory environments to life, and exposing the reader to the heart-rending poverty and truth behind much of the retail fashion industry.
Cameron took the pants in his hands and rubbed the spandex fabric between his thumb and forefinger, imagining mothers across America dressing their six-year-olds in them for Christmas. Of all the things to die for, he thought. (p.32)
What this novel sets out to do, it does well. The reader is left knowing more about the hidden sources of the clothing on store racks and private closets, and a sense of the human cost of affordable off-the-rack fashion in particular. It will very likely make you stop and think before your next purchase, while unfortunately giving no concrete alternative.
The storylines are slow to join and a bit slow to engage the reader, but each is interesting, whether it is Cameron Alexander’s travels and corporate maneuverings or Joshua Griswold’s journalistic investigation turned lawsuit. The ending is satisfying and the writing is good, which leaves me a bit puzzled as to my ambivalent reaction to this novel as a whole.
I liked how this book was broken up into eight parts, with each part indicating whether it would focus on Cameron and/or Joshua. I also liked that when there is a change in setting, the place, date, and time are given at the start of the chapter. However, some of the mechanics bothered me, particularly having the chapters start over at 1 whenever a new part began.
Shelim hesitated at the water’s edge, the Rubicon lapping against his toes. Cameron watched as he struggled, weighing the compromise and the consequences that would follow. But he really had no choice. Survival required betrayal. (p.38)
I appreciated the relatively even handed way the main characters and their associates were portrayed. None were perfect, and none were absolutely evil. What I did not care for was the pervasive lack of personal morals that seemed to characterize this book, and I was surprised by the swearing and sex scenes included. While I’ve read much worse and I am aware that there is even worse than I’ve read out there (and honestly, the consensual sex scene involving a married couple was very well written and sufficiently unspecific), it was still unexpected and definitely contributed to my mixed reaction to the novel. I’m all for edgier Christian fiction, and I am fine with a Christian publisher putting out works that are Christian in nature while not being overt or evangelical, but there is still an expectation for a clean read.
He should have died with her, or in her place. But that wasn’t the way of the universe. Life was a roulette wheel with rare glimpses of something more–what some called fate and others called Providence. But not everything was a matter of chance. This moment was his. It was all he would ever be able to claim. (p. 147)
This is a well written but slow-starting novel that captures your interest once the storylines are established. Language and content are edgier than typical from a Christian publishing house, but it is worth a read if you are interested in a fictional treatment of the topic.
A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison | Thomas Nelson, Jan 2017 | hardcover, 368 pages
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This post refers to a copy received from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan’s Fiction Guild, in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.