Friday, November 21, 2014
"Fast Food Nation meets The Corrections in the brilliant literary debut T.C. Boyle calls 'funny and moving.'
David Leveraux is an Apprentice Flavor Chemist at one of the world's leading flavor production houses. While testing Sweetness #9, he notices that the artificial sweetener causes unsettling side-effects in laboratory rats and monkeys. But with his career and family at risk, David keeps his suspicions to himself.
Years later, Sweetness #9 is America's most popular sweetener--and David's family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his daughter is depressed, and his son has stopped using verbs. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David's failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition?
An exciting literary debut, SWEETNESS #9 is a darkly comic, wildly imaginative investigation of whether what we eat makes us who we are."
Want to read something scary? This book will make you feel really unsettled. Not because it is paranormal or even really a thriller...no.
Sweetness #9 feels almost like a dystopian science fiction- like a warning of where we will head if we continue on our current track. But it isn't a future that we might see, it is instead, a startling look at the world we currently live in, and how we got there. Fictionalized, of course- the people, names of products, and corporations have changed, but this is still our world, with our history, and our citizens. Their health problems are the ones we suffer from, their mental disorders are familiar to us. We share their growing sense that something is a little off about the way we process and flavor and preserve and manufacture and advertise our food. This is about us looking at what we are eating and wondering just what polydimethylsiloxane or carmine or sorbitol is exactly. And more importantly, what is it doing to us?
And on a story level, it is about one man, who was an enthusiastic devotee of the food flavorings industry, who encounters a shocking truth early in his career, but doesn't raise the alarm. His guilty conscience, his denial, and his search for forgiveness are the devices that drive the plot. And it asks the question- can we even fix what has been done? And do we want to? Because there are pros and cons about the way we eat. Do we want to go back to spoilage issues and expensive fresh produce and bland, tasteless snacks? The book asks you to consider these issues for yourself.
You might be thinking that a book about the food industry sounds boring, but you would be wrong. The narration comes from David Leveraux, and this character's voice is compelling. It doesn't read like a non-fiction or a tell-all conspiracy tale. Instead, it feels like the confessional of a man who needs to unburden his soul. At times, it is deeply unsettling, and at other times sarcastically comical. But it is his life, his thoughts and his feelings that are all so entertaining, and that make this story seem even more real.
I really enjoyed the book, and I found it intelligent and thought-provoking. I would give it 4 stars!