The Borrowman Cell
By Ingrid Betz
The Borrowman Cell is a a decent book with a lot of potential.
What Happens in The Borrowman Cell?
The Borrowman Cell explores the perspective of different characters whose lives have all been linked together by the exploitation of animals. There are two sides to this story, the activist and the perpetrators. On the side of the activists is John Borrowman, and under him are many other like-minded individuals with a passion for animals. This includes characters like St. Denis or Verena Vitek.
On the other hand, there is a Chinese company under the guise of a mushroom farm that uses its land to harvest bile from wild bears. Caught in the middle of this conflict are characters like Marigold, who is a victim of the crossfire, or Peter, who uses this opportunity to get money to save his lab and marriage.
Who Are The Characters in The Borrowman Cell?
Verena Vitek is a young woman, who is a Serbian refugee, who moved to Canada and has lost both her parents. She is a stoic, tough, intelligent woman who has some real trauma in her past which she channels by working with Borrowman’s cell to help animals whether through protests or her skills with a gun.
John Borrowman is a university professor who studies zoology and is the leader of the animal activist cell. He is very passionate about saving animals yet is very against using violence to accomplish his goals. Marigold Green is a woman who just survived being shot at while canoeing with a friend. After recovering from her injuries Marigold is dealing with the trauma of the event but is also worried that the people who attempted to kill her are coming to finish the job.
The Borrowman Cell Review
This book is a real slow burn. For anyone who likes a book with lots of reveals, intrigue or action this book doesn’t deliver on those, at least in the first 160 pages. To start with the good, I thought the characters were all decently written with interesting histories and personalities that made it easy to follow them. From the stoic sharpshooter Verena to the pacifist activist Borrowman, there was something inherently intriguing about these characters.
While the story itself may not be one I would seek out, the idea of following an animal protection activist group and as someone who does like animals, I did root for the characters to foil the evil company’s plot. It was also nice to read a book that took place in Canada because as a Canadian I can honestly say I have only read a handful of books that actually took place in my country and had references to things I know. The last third of the novel has a lot of story threads that are resolved with each having an entertaining ending that made me feel more positive about the book as a whole.
Now on the negative side of things, this book’s first problem is that I was bored while reading it for the first two thirds. For one, the book spends the majority of its time detailing sections of our characters day to day-to-day lives. This is fine when you have maybe two protagonists but not when you have four perspective characters as well as three more secondary characters who we also follow for some time.
If we had actually got to read about some of the cell’s previous missions or had spent more time explaining why they each felt the obligation to save animals, I feel it would have developed the characters more and maybe given context to the characters’ experience.
That is the other biggest problem with this novel, it has too many characters that take away from each character individually as they are developed less and it also makes the book harder to follow and comprehend. If the author had chosen to take out maybe two characters, it would have made a much more cohesive story that would have probably flowed better.
The characters themselves are interesting and are not easily distinguishable on the page as each character is written the same way that many times while reading, I had to backtrack and figure out which character I was following.
I also mentioned that I thought the last third concluded things nicely and while I still think that is the case I feel that the novel’s ending was kind of depressing in a novel that already wasn’t that cheerful. It definitely did not make me feel very hopeful that animal activists have a chance of changing things.
All in all, this is a novel that I feel could’ve been really good if it hadn’t been bogged down by some writing choices but if you are into activism and or want to read a book about Canada I would say check it out, however, if that doesn’t apply to you this won’t be your cup of tea.