John Harvey Kellogg was a man ahead of his time. From the family that invented the corn flake, Dr. Kellogg ran a Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, that was one of the first of its kind in America. Concerned with the physiologic health of its inmates (mostly from the wealthy and upper middle class population), Dr. Kellogg prescribed lots of exercise, enemas, a diet consisting of milk, vegetables, fruits, and grains. No meat of any kind was allowed. The inbibing of alcohol was forbidden as was any kind of sexual activity. Sleeping quarters, even for husbands and wives, were strictly segregated. Dr. Kellogg also performed various experiments to create different types of foods (e.g. corn pulp). He even kept a laboratory holding containers of various animals' feces which Dr. Kellogg believed had the same nutritional value as a steak. Dr. Kellogg was a rigid, self-righteous man who thoroughly believed in his infallability. Never mind that one of his patient's skin was steadily becoming green and that another one was accidentally electrocuted while lolling in a sinusodial bath. We later learn that Dr. Kellogg misdiagnosed one of his patients as having "autointoxication" (all of his patients were allegedly suffering from this malady), when what he really had was an intestinal ulcer. Nor would Dr. Kellogg brook any disagreements with him or his methods. Besides his closest competitor, C.W. Post (whose slogan, "the road to wellville" Dr. Kellogg thoroughly despised), the individual who gave Dr. Kellogg the most trouble was his adopted son, George, who was extraordinarily hostile, rebellious, and downright psychotic. Dr. Kellogg believed that George was the only failure in his brood of 42 adopted children.
_The Road To Wellville_ is populated with many colorful and eccentric characters. These include the businessman Will Lightbody (whose name perfectly described him) and his wife, Eleanor, who convinced her husband to accompany her to the San. Both, according to Dr. Kellogg were very ill. Will, who occasionally strayed from the San to partake of hamburger sandwiches and liquid libations, must endure severe punishment for his recalcitrance. Eleanor was befriended by Lionel Badger, in whom Dr. Kellogg deeply mistrusted, and who was a radical anti-vivisectionist and a thorough believer in nudism. Eleanor was also treated outside the San by the German, monocle wearing Dr. Spitzvogel, who would have gone to prison if his methods were judged by today's standards. There is young Charlie Ossining, whom Will and Eleanor met while on their train trip to Battle Creek. Will and others invest in Charlie's breakfast food scheme. Charlie hoped that his venture would enable him to cash in during the then current breakfast food craze. Unfortunately, Charlie's plans go awry because he must contend with Bender, his flagrently dishonest business partner.
T.C. Boyle tell his novel with lots of verve, humor, warmth, and humanity. Because Boyle cares deeply about his characters, so do we. What makes _The Road To Wellville_ so poignant is its relevance to today's world. Who amongst us is not familiar with the various diet fads that promise to make the obese lose up to 30 lbs. in two weeks? New health and sports clubs constantly crop up everywhere that brag about their latest state of the art exercise equipment. And who has not seen TV advertisements hawking all sorts of gadgets, and what not that were specially designed to build up men's abs or to flatten women's tummys? So order _The Road To Wellville_ now, and if you do not find it thoroughly enjoyable, engaging, and funny, your local book store owner will totally refund your money.