2013 Dhaka Bangladesh there is a fire at Millennium clothing factory. People are jumping from the windows to escape, hundreds die and others are badly injured. The media focus on one image, a young girl, dirty and broken on the ground with a pair of children pants covering her mouth to protect against smoke inhalation. The label on those pants is Piccolo an American fashion brand made by the Presto Omnishops Corporation.
Cameron Alexander is a CEO at Presto and a lawyer. He decides to look into the sourcing and supply change in the aftermath of the fire and media frenzy, but is not prepared for the opening of the Pandoras Box that is the exploitation of workers in the sweatshops where the garments are made. But America lives in a culture of deniability where all that matters is customer supply and demand.
One year later former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Josh Griswold receives information from a whistleblower at Presto about the extent of corporate exploitation in the east, in particular the slavery, rape and human trafficking of workers. Josh uses this information to make a landmark case against Presto to take responsibility and hopefully change sourcing and supply of factories.
A Harvest of Thorns is a thought provoking and engaging read, if a times shocking, that will make you stop and think about the clothes you buy. The novel takes you from the corporate world of Washington DC to the factories and slums in Bangladesh, Jordan and Malaysia. The plot is hard hitting and deals with corporate ethics, social responsibility, and the exploitation of workers.
The characters are well developed and very believable. Cameron is a CEO with a heart. He has experienced personal loss and wants change in respect to corporate responsibility but his hands a tied by the board at Presto. Josh is trying to regain his journalist career after being disgraced by an affair that also destroyed his marriage, this story is is chance to make things right. Alya, Sonia and Jashal are victims of the exploitation in the factories, their stories will pull at your heart strings and open your eyes to a different world.
What makes this book even more shocking is that it is based on fact. In 2012 there was a fire at Tazareen Fashions Factory in Bangladesh where hundreds of workers were killed and injured whist working late to finish an order for American company Walmart.
This is as beautifully written, erudite and informative book that will stay with you long after you have read the last page. If you read only one book this year, I urge you to read this. Absolutely brilliant.