Exit Strategy: A Novel
In her novel Exit Strategy, Julie Finigan Morris examines the food industry, particularly the pros and cons of industrial-scale organic farming. As the world’s largest organic salad company, Green Earth Organics has been the leader of the organic movement for over 15 years; however, when an E. coli outbreak is traced back to GEO, the future of the company is in jeopardy.
In the aftermath, Jane Janhusen is called upon to assist her dishonorable boss, the co-founder of GEO, to restore the company’s prestige. The possibility of forming a union to demand higher pay fizzles out once the outbreak occurs, leaving veteran wash-liner Stella Gonzalez wondering how she will provide for her teenage daughter and aging mother. And Ruth Malmquist’s world is shaken as her son fights desperately for his life against E. coli. In order to address the large-scale issues surrounding the E. coli outbreaks, Morris narrows her focus on the personal challenges of three strong, determined women and intertwines their lives with finesse.
It is apparent that Morris conducted extensive research while writing this novel as it is crafted with knowledge and perception; however, the narration lacks drive, the dialogue is often forced and uninteresting, and the random documents like emails, a recipe, newspaper stories, etc., are jarring. The first half of the novel especially moves slowly; the large amount of background detail laid out by the narrator interrupts the flow of the story.
It’s not until much later in the novel that the reader is thrust into the messy lives of Morris’s characters. Only then, when the realness of the characters is realized, does the reader become invested in their future. Eventually Morris exposes the heartbeat of her main characters and, in doing so, conveys an honest, desperate emotion that expresses the seriousness of E. coli as well as other situations that the novel explores, including the struggle of low-income families and the dreadfulness of sexual harassment and abuse.
While Morris’s sympathetic characters evoke an emotionally charged story, the novel as a whole would be much more powerful if it were saturated with rich and compelling adjectives, adverbs, and figurative language. There is little here that engages the senses. However, readers looking for a straightforward book that delves into the advantages and pitfalls of corporate farming will not be disappointed by this fictionalized account of three tenacious females who discover the positive effects of adversity.
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