Debut author Morris offers a timely novel about a food safety crisis.
An E. coli outbreak. A product recall. For most people, such events trigger a cursory check of the refrigerator or a doctor’s appointment, at most, but this novel shows how, for those working in the food industry, they’re a storm on the horizon and that even the most basic, everyday choices can dramatically alter fate. Stella Gonzalez, who washes produce for the Green Earth Organics corporation, struggles with the fact that her company fails to provide her with a living wage even after she’s worked there for 15 years to provide for her daughter. Executive Jane Janhusen, meanwhile, loves the company and her position at the right hand of company head Kate Worthington, an organic-food celebrity. But when a food crisis unfolds, saving their reputations and that of the company becomes harder than she could have imagined. On the outside, Ruth Malmquist fears for her son’s life after he’s infected by contaminated spinach. The three women’s conflicting desires intersect and entangle, while Green Earth Organics founder Roger Worthington, Kate’s husband, offers perspective into the gritty details of corporate damage control. The points of view shift and change as the crisis progresses, creating an engaging narrative of personal responsibility. Morris’ writing is strong and incisive, the plot is complex and nuanced, and the attention to detail keeps the story compelling throughout. Specifically, the book conveys a great deal of information about the workings of the agricultural industry, especially for such a slim volume—from executives’ concerns regarding management, public relations, and the possibility of selling the company to the laborers’ thoughts on unionization and how all these factors affect the world at large. What’s more, setting the story in 2008 allows it to address the rise of health food and lifestyle celebrities, local-food movements, the advent of “superfoods,” and even the financial crisis. The novel also tackles difficult issues involving family, grief, and sexual harassment with compassionate tact and multicultural insight.
A dynamic, multifaceted treat.