Have you ever thoughts about where your clothes come from?
I mean really thought about who is sewing that pattern together, what their working conditions are like and how much they are getting paid?
Well, reading this book made me do exactly that.
I have always been one to consider the ethical side of things but ultimately I too have fallen into the trappings of consumerism just like everyone does at some point.
A Harvest of Thorns – A Thought Provoking Story of Denial
This is a book that without really reading the synopsis I agreed to read. There was something about the title that caught my attention and so without really knowing what the genre or story-line was I opened the front cover and jumped in.
For the first couple of chapters I did wonder why. I am not really one for female targeted novels and so to read a book about the fashion industry has never been at the top of my list. Then I stopped and thought about what I was reading. Yes, there was a fashion element to it but there was a much larger story unfolding.
A Harvest of Thorns is a book about modern-day slavery, unjust employment, the price we are willing to pay for support from the developing world and personal struggles of the wealthy with a conscience.
I know, sounds deep and depressing, not a potential easy-reading novel that you would settle into after a heavy day at work, right? Wrong. This is a book that will actually make you appreciate your own circumstances whilst making you ponder whether there is anything else you could be doing to help others. It is a story of determination and resilience; a story of the plight of those less fortunate.
The Main Characters
Cameron, comes from a background of Harvard Law, but instead of following in his father’s footsteps decides to follow his best friend into business and is now in charge of all things compliance related for one of the largest apparel retailers in America.
Josh, also a member of the Harvard Law elite, opted for a life of journalism and travelling the world in search of the ‘next big story’ over a stuffy office and a courtroom full of constraints.
Together, these two men form an unusual alliance. Both have a desire to change how large corporations treat their overseas workers.
What Is The Catalyst?
One fateful night in Bangladesh hundreds of workers lose their lives in a factory fire. This factory had been red listed by Presto, a family oriented Retailer, for safety reasons. So there is no real reason for them to worry when pictures of a young girl laying face down on the ground is transmitted across the world on all major news stations and plastered across the front pages of all the newspapers.
Only it turns out that this is not quite the case.
Unbeknown to the senior management of Presto, sitting pretty in their large glass-walled offices near Capitol Hill, this factory is still producing clothing for not one, but all three of their clothing lines.
Presto’s world, thanks to the image of the young girl who fell from the window of a factory ablaze, is about to coming crashing down.
Unfortunately for this American company, the young girl’s sister had tied a pair of Presto’s pants around her face to help reduce smoke inhalation and the label is now on show to the world.
People are in uproar. How could a company who supposedly prides itself on supplying good working conditions let such an incident happen?
Unable to find the answers whilst sitting in his office, Cameron heads off to find out for himself what really happened and in doing so uncovers far more than he could have bargained for.
It would appear that this is not an isolated incident and over the course of his investigation Cameron realises that he cannot simply hold the supply agents of the developing world responsibility. Authoritative figures within his own organisation, people who should know better, are turning a blind eye and telling themselves that it doesn’t matter how things are done as long as profits continue to rise.
Unsure how to handle this, Cameron takes his findings to the CEO of the company and his best friend, Vance, only to be turned away and told to brush all issues under the carpet.
Josh is outraged by the images flying across his TV screen but what can he do? Once a well-respect Journalist, he is no longer employed to go in search of headlines or seek out the truth. That is until he receives a request to meet someone under the Lincoln Monument late one night.
This discreet meeting, with an unnamed source, uncovers the true extent of Presto’s workings overseas and forces him to board a flight to Bangladesh.
With a background in investigative journalism, it doesn’t take Josh long to find people that are willing to talk to him. He soon starts to piece together the snippets of information he has been given and what he discovers disturbs him.
Something needs to be done for these people; something that is far beyond his own capabilities but perhaps within the capabilities of his father-in-law, a well-respected Lawyer.
Whilst I do not intend to ruin it for others that wish to read this story for themselves, I think it is clear that these two men come together to fight against Presto and their treatment of employees.
Whether they succeed or not however, is something that I don’t intend to disclose here.
What I will say is that A Harvest of Thorns, is a story with several underlying storylines. Not only will you read about two men fighting for what they believe is right and decent; you will also read about their own personal plights.
One is still coming to terms with the loss of his wife in a horrific accident, the other is trying to rebuild a life where he too lost his wife but for a very different reason.
Both are personally lost, fighting an inner turmoil where they have to take long, hard looks at themselves in order to rediscover the men they truly are.
Will anything work out? Will either of them be able to come to terms with what they have done and go back to living a life they can be proud of?
A Harvest of Thorns will make you think, will make you question and ultimately will make you look in the mirror – it is a soul searching novel for both the characters and the reader.
Why You Should Read A Harvest of Thorns
Whilst this is in fact a fictional work it is born out of reality.
Corban Addison created this thought-provoking story after researching a similar incident for himself – that of the Tazreen Factory Fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
If reading the novel itself is not cause for reflection on its own, then the epilogue is. This is where Corban goes into fine detail about the fire and how people ’made the fateful decision to break through the barricades on the windows and jump into the abyss.’ He goes on to say about how some were ‘impale[d] on the bars and cut from the glass. Others died in the fall. Still others survived with permanent disabilities.’
It turns out that this factory had been producing goods for Walmart, Gap, Zara and many others.
Through this book therefore, Corban hopes that people will start to question ‘the soul of the global economy.’
So, I return to my opening question – do any of us really consider the people behind our clothes?
Regardless of whether the top you are currently wearing is £2, £20 or £200 the chances are they are all being produced by the same factories and the same seamstresses, but what conditions are they working in? Are they safe? Are they healthy? Are they at risk?
Perhaps it is time for us all to delve deeper into where our wardrobe is coming from.
This article contains affiliate links which means that should you purchase any of the products linked above we do gain a small commission at no extra cost to you. All products recommended have been tried and tested by ourselves, we would never recommend something we would not be happy with.