Barbara Garson, author of the classic on work All the Livelong Day, always keeps a close watch on American culture. In this intriguing and well-realized book, she takes half of her advance from the publisher ($34,500) and invests part of it in a small privately owned bank in Milbrook, New York, and the rest of it in a mutual fund. Her intention: to see her money at work in the world. The marvel of it all is that Garson, who doesn't have a degree in economics or business, manages to make the dynamics of the global economy accessible to those of us who are similarly untrained in such complex financial matters.
Garson's detective work takes her to shrimp farms and oil refineries in Southeast Asia where the lives of thousands of rural people are being rocked by economic expansion in the region. Whereas the rich can always bounce back from setbacks, the poor are hardest hit "by the world oscillations of capital."
The second half of the book charts Garson's investment in a mutual fund and the restructuring of Sunbeam Corporation. The author takes a hard look at the impact of this process set in motion by "turnaround artist" Al Dunlap. She visits Portland, Maine, where a Sunbeam aluminum furniture plant has been targeted for shutdown. Meanwhile in Biddeford, Maine, Garson follows the efforts of employees to buy out Sunbeam's doomed electric-blanket plant.
Near the end of this odyssey, the author concludes, "The goodies in this global village are very unequally distributed." Garson laments that her money was the cause of so much pain, desperation, and insecurity.