Roberta Reed is diametrically opposed to her father, Robert Reed, the CEO of Reed Public Relations. She cares deeply for the environment, and even considers herself a hippie during her youth. Her father, on the other hand, has devoted his life to corporate subterfuge, dishonesty, and a penchant for helping companies destroy the environment while maintaining a healthy public image. The book opens at his sudden death and the reading of his will; in a twist, his daughter, Roberta, who has opposed everything he stood for, is made CEO of the company. The novel follows her journey as she proves herself an adept businesswoman striving to make changes in the world.
The most dazzling aspect of the book is Presson’s knowledge of environmental events and their impact. A colorful host of real figures, including Jacques Cousteau and Johnny Hallyday, and beautiful settings are given voices, paralleling real events from the 90s. Often, the characters and plot play second fiddle to a realistic account of the devastating effects of an oil tanker’s crash off the Mediterranean. Perhaps this was a welcome distraction from characters I didn’t particularly connect with, making the final half engaging and fast paced. If the reader is left with any doubt that The Outcasts of Eden isn’t a plea for the environment, Presson includes nearly twenty pages of environmental disasters up to the present, forcing the reader to come to terms with humanity’s impact on the environment.
Presson also cements her authority as a skilled writer with an acute knowledge of corporate practices, and I never doubted the decisions Roberta was forced to make in her role as CEO. Everything comes easily for Roberta and her friends – sometimes too easily – but I enjoyed much of the drama that ensues. I’d recommend The Outcasts of Eden to anyone interested in the corporate world, environmental issues, and the steps we can take, small and great, to make a difference.
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