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The Road to Wellville [Paperback]

T. C Boyle
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Jan 1995
The hilarious account of Dr John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the cornflake and peanut butter. The author talks about Kellogg's profligate, degenerate and opportunistic son and the birth of America's first health fanatics.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Australia; Film & TV Tie-in ed edition (26 Jan 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140140751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140140750
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 501,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Corn flake tastic 17 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is good. You should read it. My only criticism is that it's a bit too long (for my liking). It probably could've been about a third shorter (and thus snappier) - I was getting a little fed up with the characters towards the end. However, they are written well and the situations they find themselves in are intriguing and often funny. Coraghessan Boyle has a fantastic grasp of the English language and paints pictures with words very well. I also liked how the book influenced my diet. For the first chunk, you'll find yourself seriously reviewing your lunchtime choices in the staff canteen, but towards the end, you're like "Ach, I'll have the lasagne with extra cheese and dead cow please" : This is definitely worth a read and gives a lot more depth than the film...
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By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and developer of the corn flake, is committed to improving the health and well-being of his devoted disciples by promoting a life free of meat, alcohol, tobacco, and sex. In 1907, people flock to the San for lengthy stays to cleanse their bodies of impurities and improve their lives. Will Lightbody has stomach problems, and, encouraged by his wife Eleanor, a Kellogg believer, he agrees to accompany her for several months with Dr. Kellogg.

On the train they meet Charlie Ossining, a young man who wants to set up a rival company to Kellogg's to make corn flakes and to take advantage of the growing health industry. Charlie, who has a sleazy partner, is raising money for the manufacture of Perfo breakfast food, and when he and his partner team up with George Kellogg, one of John Kellogg's many adopted sons, the attempt to capitalize on John Kellogg's pioneering work becomes personal.

Charlie and the Lightbodys go their separate ways in Battle Creek and then reconnect throughout the novel, as Boyle shows Dr. Kellogg's excesses in the name of health--husbands and wives separated to prevent sex, grasses used for food, and regular enemas administered to rid the body of impurities. At the same time, he shows how easy it may be for fly-by-night operators, like Charlie and his partners, to capitalize on the natural desire of people to lead healthier lives. Will Lightbody, enrolled at the clinic, remains skeptical about the doctor's methods and frequently rebels against the most egregious practices, and through him Doyle is able to show the arguments made for and against particular health practices and the willingness of ordinary people to be duped.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Health Craze of an Earlier Time 21 Nov 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As with all of TC Boyles books, it has that biting satire I enjoy. It is good to know that every generation has its "Snake Oil Salesmen". In an indirect way the book pokes fun at the current craze for health and vitamins. A good read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A steak is every bit as deadly as a gun." 8 Jun 2004
By S. Calhoun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
At the turn of the 20th century Battle Creek, Michigan was a magnet for the health-conscious while simultaneously attracting breakfast food speculators from around the country. In THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE T.C. Boyle spins an insightful and entertaining tale combining both of these historical movements. After surviving many attempts to making breakfast food products that were sabotaged by his jealous brother, he turned his attention to developing a sanitarium to launch his firm beliefs in a scientific diet that will treat the nation's ill health. After much hard work and determinism Kellogg's dream soon materialized as the sick traveled from afar to undergo daily enemas and milk diets in an effort to cleanse their systems.
According to the back cover this book is "wickedly comic" and "a comic tour de force", but I felt that this book wasn't all that laugh-out-loud funny. Sure, there is a plenty of T.C. Boyle's smart and intelligent prose but rarely did I find myself giggling while reading. The only passages that made me smile included the antics of Dr. Kellogg's disobedient foster son, especially the Christmas caroling scene.
All in all, I appreciated this book for its unique glimpse into this often-forgotten piece of American history; it's difficult to go wrong with T.C. Boyle as he always seems to spin an entertaining story.
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious satire with a timely message 6 Dec 2000
By Shantell Powell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Road to Wellville is going on my list of absolute favourite books. This is one of the funniest novels I have ever read, and also one of the most educational. T. Coraghessan Boyle has perfected the art of understatement. One of my favourite parts is when Eleanor Lightbody is receiving her German therapeutic massage: "She sank beneath it, dreaming of those sylvan glades, of men and women alike gamboling through Bavarian meadows, as naked as God made them, and she felt herself moving, too, the gentlest friction of her hips against the leather padding, moving forward and downwards and ever so therapeutically into that firm sure touch." Trust me, when you get to that part of the book, all will make sense in a most delightful way!
This is a chronicle of the scatological misadventures of the spa/health set of the 1890s/1900s. Why do I say scatological? Well, John Kellogg (inventor of corn flakes and peanut butter) was obsessed with the alimentary canal. He believed a strict regimen of no fewer than five enemas per day was necessary for good health. His obsession with defecatory health permeates the novel and gives it its own unique...er...flavour.
But the novel is not a coprocentric treatise. It is a hilarious, rollicking journey through the life of a quack who didn't know he was a quack, and through the lives of those he effected.
I was first introduced to this tale through the critically-panned film version (which I personally enjoyed very much!). The book shares many common plot elements with the story, but, as is the usual case, is far superior to its film adaptation. It is also a very quick and easy read.
It's easy to disassociate myself from the ridiculous treatments included in this book (breathing in radium as a means of treating jaundice is a perfect example), but, I can't help but think T. Coraghessan Boyle may have meant this book to serve also as a cautionary tale. Sure, it's fun to laugh at those silly people of a hundred years ago, but similarly ridiculous and life-threatening "treatments" are being given out now under the guise of holistic healing.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Father Knows Best, Or So He Says 19 Jun 2003
By IRA Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Charlie Ossining was late." 6 July 2000
By E. Scoles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
We always understand books or films in the context of our lives. For me, that quote -- describing Charlie Ossining's first moments in Battle Creek, as he realizes that he's at the tail-end and not the forefront of the breakfast-cereal boom -- sum up my experience of the book.
As an underling and long-time observer of The New Economy, I literally woke inspired one day to seek out this book. Though published in 1993, prior to the 'internet boom', it could as easily be a pointed parody of gullible dot-com fetishism and market-cap charlatanism as of gullible '80s materialism (or gullible '70s self-obsession or gullible '60s self-centeredness or... well, you get the idea). And the sense of deja-vu-all-over-again is only intensified by having once personally lived through Charlie's experience as the unwitting accomplice in a Big Con.
It's worth mentioning Boyle's apparent affection for even his most questionable characters. Even the 'little doctor', JH Kellog himself, is drawn as a man with the best and most genuine of motives, albeit a sad lack of self-examination. Scathingly satirical, funny, occasionally (but only so) gross and nasty, it's nevertheless never mean-spirited -- and that's why it works.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Each juicy morsel of meat is alive, and swarming with the same filth as found in the carcass of a dead rat." 15 Sep 2006
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and developer of the corn flake, is committed to improving the health and well-being of his devoted disciples by promoting a life free of meat, alcohol, tobacco, and sex. In 1907, people flock to the San for lengthy stays to cleanse their bodies of impurities and improve their lives. Will Lightbody has stomach problems, and, encouraged by his wife Eleanor, a Kellogg believer, he agrees to accompany her for several months with Dr. Kellogg.

On the train they meet Charlie Ossining, a young man who wants to set up a rival company to Kellogg's to make corn flakes and to take advantage of the growing health industry. Charlie, who has a sleazy partner, is raising money for the manufacture of Perfo breakfast food, and when he and his partner team up with George Kellogg, one of John Kellogg's many adopted sons, the attempt to capitalize on John Kellogg's pioneering work becomes personal.

Charlie and the Lightbodys go their separate ways in Battle Creek and then reconnect throughout the novel, as Boyle shows Dr. Kellogg's excesses in the name of health--husbands and wives separated to prevent sex, grasses used for food, and regular enemas administered to rid the body of impurities. At the same time, he shows how easy it may be for fly-by-night operators, like Charlie and his partners, to capitalize on the natural desire of people to lead healthier lives. Will Lightbody, enrolled at the clinic, remains skeptical about the doctor's methods and frequently rebels against the most egregious practices, and through him Doyle is able to show the arguments made for and against particular health practices and the willingness of ordinary people to be duped.

The satire here is broad and universal, but Doyle is far more interested in telling a good story than in mounting an attack. When some of the "disciples," especially Eleanor Lightbody, begin to experiment with techniques of "manipulation therapy, " advocated by a rival of Kellogg, the humor enters the realm of the absurd, and when George Kellogg confronts his estranged father, it reaches its peak. Great fun to read and filled with amusing comments on our preoccupation with health, Boyle reminds us that the health industry can ultimately provide "the 'open sesame' to the sucker's purse." n Mary Whipple
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