From an exciting new voice in literary fiction, a transfixing story about an expatriate in southern China and his burgeoning relationship with a seamstress intent on inspiring dramatic political change Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line. When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow laborers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite? Deftly plotted and vibrantly drawn, The Emperor of Shoes is a timely meditation on idealism, ambition, father-son rivalry and cultural revolution, set against a vivid backdrop of social and technological change.
HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW
I don’t really suppose that Alex Cohen had given much thought to how the family wealth had been acquired. I don’t suppose you would when you are the third generation in the family shoe business. I am not talking a little high street shop here, I am talking about the production side, the factories that make the shoes for major shoe retailers. So Alex had quite a task on his shoulders because he really wanted his father to be proud of him or at least he did until he saw the real cost of making the shoes.
This is one mighty powerful story where I had to keep turning back the pages to make sure I had got the time period right and that it was taking place in present day. Alex was to learn the family trade which was based in China. Oh my I could have wept as Alex took a tour of the start to finish shoe production line, from carcass to high-class shoe, that had made his family name and fortune in China. When Ivy caught his eye, a young Chinese girl making the shoes, his life took on a new direction.
Oh my this story really opened my eyes to world trade and how the system can be abused. This is a very powerful story with strong characters that are willing to lay down their lives to change conditions for the better. There are the odd wolves in amongst the people who are there for all the wrong reasons. Greed and exploitation comes in many disguises from people who have little regard for life to people much closer to home where they only see the bottom line.
Alex was a changed man by the end of the story. A much wiser man than the gullible one straight from college. An absolutely riveting read.
I wish to thank NetGalley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in Boston, Spencer Wise is a graduate of Tufts University and the University of Texas at Austin and worked in the editorial departments at Sports Illustrated and Time Out New York. His work has appeared in Narrative magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Florida Review, and New Ohio Review. He is the winner of the 2017 Gulf Coast Prize in nonfiction. Wise teaches at Florida State University and lives in Tallahassee.