The Road to Wellville

The Road to Wellville

by T. C. Boyle


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Will Lightbody is a man with a stomach ailment whose only sin is loving his wife, Eleanor, too much. Eleanor is a health nut of the first stripe, and when in 1907 she journeys to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg's infamous Battle Creek Spa to live out the vegetarian ethos, poor Will goes too.

So begins T. Coraghessan Boyle's wickedly comic look at turn-of-the-century fanatics in search of the magic pill to prolong their lives--or the profit to be had from manufacturing it. Brimming with a Dickensian cast of characters and laced with wildly wonderful plot twists, Jane Smiley in the New York Times Book Review called The Road to Wellville "A marvel, enjoyable from beginning to end."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140167184
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/1994
Edition description: New
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 223,965
Product dimensions: 5.09(w) x 7.75(h) x 1.05(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World's End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.


Santa Barbara California

Date of Birth:

December 2, 1948

Place of Birth:

Peekskill, New York


B.A. in music, State University of New York at Potsdam, 1970; Ph.D. in literature, Iowa University, 1977

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The Road to Wellville 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
TheBeesKnees24 More than 1 year ago
The Road to Wellville by T. Corhagessen Boyle A masterpiece of subtle comedy, T.C. Boyle's novel The Road to Wellville provides an in depth glance to the complicated and eventful creation of Kellogg's cereals. Boyle captures the turn-of-century health craze that swept the nation in the early 20th century. The novel centers around life at the Sanitarium, a radical new health facility in Battle Creek, Michigan run by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. His prestige and popularity bring the wealthy and famous, including influential writer Upton Sinclair, and future president William Howard Taft, to the Sanitarium, along with other less esteemed patients. At his facility, known affectionately as "the San," Dr. Kellogg prescribes to each patient five enemas a day and sinusoidal baths. Most of all, he preaches abstinence and complete severance of spousal relationships, as it is "detrimental to the human condition." For one patient in particular, this recommendation seems ridiculous and unnecessary. Will Lightbody, a wealthy socialite from Peterskill, New York, was forced to come to Battle Creek by his wife Eleanor. Their marital problems started with the death of their baby daughter and Will's alcoholism, and are only worsened by their forced separation at the San. Will is constantly ailed by his stomach, which churns the moment he takes a bite of food, and is forced to follow strict rules as he is diagnosed with "autointoxication." The third delicately intertwined story tells of hopeful breakfast-food magnate, Charlie Ossining. Desiring the life of the rich and famous, he sets out with mysterious businessman Mr. Bender. Charlie's innocence and realism contrast well with the extreme views of Dr. Kellogg and the Lightbodys, who are obsessed with the world's opinion of them. However, the extreme character, and a quite literal foil to Dr. Kellogg, is his adopted son George. He is the epitome of bad health; rotting teeth, greasy hair, and ratted clothes make George an extreme disappointment and nuisance to the Doctor. Boyle emphasizes this in his detailed descriptions, painting a picture for the reader. As the novel progresses, Boyle incorporates clever and mature humor in to the complicated internal and external conflicts. Odd situations and comical stories, when read between the lines, reveal the doctor's struggle to present himself as a composed and intelligent man while he is truly a fraud. Additionally, he struggles to keep George, who causes him to feel a great sense of personal failure, away from his life and company. Will's strong devotion to Eleanor is tested by the San, and her actions dishearten his efforts. Throughout the novel, Boyle continually brings up sex, emphasizing that Dr. Kellogg will not allow Will have the one thing he desires most. Charlie tries desperately to be accepted in to the elite world, in which he feels mocked. The novel craftily knits three seemingly separate stories together to form a complex world in which there is no complete and true protagonist. Boyle uses deep glances in to the thoughts, actions, and pasts of each character, blurring the line between good and evil and leaving a hole in the place of a true hero. Each character's slight insanity and obsession with the world's opinion keeps one guessing. This combination makes for an interesting and entertaining read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two things are true of all TC Boyle novels: 1) They are always funny and well-written and 2) they are always well researched. Indeed there is no shortage of the former in THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE--it is replete with scenes of absurd tragedy and prose so rich and buttery you can almost see health-nut Harvey Kellogg wagging his finger. But it is the obvious infatuation Boyle has with researching Kellogg's story that bogs his own novel down. There are far too many superfluous descriptions of (a few examples) Harvey Kellogg lecturing a room full of astonished listeners; rich socialites eating vegetables; trendy medicinal practices circa 1907; and nurses administering enemas to reluctant colons. WELLVILLE is by no means a bad novel; in fact, its premise and setting are captivating at times, and even though the characters we meet at "the San" are all either idealistic and naive or righteous and self-important, they are still interesting enough to be followed around. But at about page 300 readers may find themselves hitting a wall. If you are that far invested, soldier on--like any good Kellogg meal, TC saves the best for last (ne'er-do-well George's fate is particularly gratifying)--but this is a clear example of a novel that could have been 50 pages shorter and still effective in achieving its sweeping Dickensian narrative. Recommended for Boyle die-hards, but for first-timers there are better books to choose from....
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
This is one fantastic, highly entertaining story! It's full of wit, humor and energy. T.C. Boyle is a wonderful writer and his style shines in The Road to Wellville. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg is larger than life in these pages and a bit of an eccentric. The book seems well researched and put together and makes for a very lively read!
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An outstanding novel. Boyle really outdid himself with this creative treatment of the Kellogg sanitarium and the breakfast food boom centered around Battle Creek Michigan in the early twentieth century.The novel¿s dark humor is its most striking aspect. The descriptions of the medical treatments, the enemas, the food at the sanitarium, the lectures by Kellogg, the odd characters who were drawn to the treatments, read like an odd mixture of Faulkner and Dickens. And it has plot! We follow the Will Lightbody and his wife Eleanor on the road to Wellville, along with an assortment of minor characters and subplots. Highly inventive and a great read.
BobNolin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this when it came out (20 some years ago), and then again recently. I liked it a lot more this time. There isn't a whole lot of depth to any of the characters; they just seem to each have a list of quirks or characteristics ("anti-sex", "lacks backbone", "bored rich girl looking for excitement", etc.). One character, George Kellogg, one of the many many adopted children of Dr. Kellogg, stands out in that his motivations are completely unexplained. Neither we nor the Doctor can figure out why he is just plain bad. He serves to stir things up, and I'm guessing that's why he's there. But a little more explanation would have made him less obviously a plot device, and more of a real person. Once in a while we get some backstory on a character, but mostly we have no clue as where these people are coming from. What is driving Kellogg's missionary zeal? He's a man possessed. Why? What's he got against sex? The first time I read this, I was a young lad, so my impressions were bound to be different. But I do recall that it seemed Boyle was just plain laughing at all his characters, and that bothered me. Now I think I wouldn't have had that impression if he had made the main characters, at least, a bit more than robots. You really don't get any insight into why, for instance, Eleanor is the way she is, or even what she wants. I assume she's just a bored rich girl looking for a bit of fun. Why is Will such a milquetoast? What does he see in Eleanor? Everything's on the surface, despite the third-person writing. We hear their thoughts, but no light is shed on their inner hearts. Now I'm reading "East is East," also by Boyle, and a similar lack of depth/empathy is present. I guess that's just how he writes. The book does seem to spend too much time on Will's treatment. It seems to go on forever, long past the point of the reader's interest in the strange procedures used. May as well have called it "The Road to Enemaville" or something. Overall, a fun book. Recommended for fans of "Ragtime," historical fiction, and silly medical ideas.
kishields on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fun book, but could have been edited down to a more manageable size. Interesting portrait of a wacky health craze when cereal was invented. Very involving towards the end when everything comes together.
Jamnjazzz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Obviously the one that broke TC into view for many. All in all, not as meaningful as some of his others (Tortilla Curtain, Friend of the Earth), but certainly a wonderful study in the charms and dangers of snake oil that can be meaningful today (any infomercial or Dr. Phil for christ sack).
arouse77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
moderately enjoyable. a fairly interesting portrayal of the sometimes batty lengths americans will go to in pursuit of health. just confirms my tendency to think we just need to do the thing that guy who wrote 'In Defense of Food' suggested: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ausonius More than 1 year ago
In 1907-1908 Battle Creek, Michigan was to the health food and wellness industry what a century later Silicon Valley would be in California. The epicenter of excitement, new technology, new ideas, new fortunes. Battle Creek was the beginning of the road to wellville (a slogan created by C. W Post, creator of Postum, Grape Nuts and Post Toasties). Post had been a patient in the Battle Creek Sanatarium run by John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., erstwhile Seventh-day Adventist, ongoing high priest of sensible vegetarian living, daily multiple colonic irrigation and no sex for himself or any of his patients. Kellogg believed that C. W. Post had broken into his safe, stolen his recipes and then made a fortune based on Kellogg's ideas. This was the origin of Post Cereals, later General Foods Corporation. John Harvey's brother William, aka W. K. Kellogg, wrested away control of cereal manufacturing and started Kellogg's Company. All this the short, natty, always in white Dr. Kellogg bitterly resented. So this is a comic novel about the early cutthroat, boom and bust days of American vegetarian breakfast foods. Not surprisingly one major character, Charlie Ossining, whose entrepreneurial hero is the great C. W. Post, comes to Battle Creek to seek his fortune, using a doting benefactress's start-up money. That money is soon spent by Charlie's partner, one Bender. The pair enlist one of John Harvey Kellogg's numerous adopted children, 20-year old Frank, to lend his name to their own Kellogg's Company and its miserable breakfast food. This scheme is successfully thwarted by the brothers Kellogg. ***** Dr. Kellogg treats an unhappy young married couple, Will and Eleanor Lightbody. They are rich and have recently lost an infant daughter. Will has acquired an addiction to an opiate fed him by his wife to break his dependence on alcohol. T. C. Boyle uses the great doctor's treatment of Will, Eleanor and others to showcase advanced but socially peripheral medical ideas of the early 1900s. Other doctors and a German quack named Spitzvogel also bring their eccentric practices into play. Their single-minded pursuit of such techniques as womb manipulation, to cure female hysteria, diets of nothing but milk, followed by nothing but grapes, electric shocks, surgery to remove kinks in bowels and on and on were staunchly believed in my leading medical brains of the era. It is all in THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE. And it is all very funny. -OOO-
Pewaukeepen More than 1 year ago
I bought this book, because I liked "The Women" so much and because I know a member of the Kellogg family. My interest was strong in the beginning of the book, and the characters interesting. I lost interest about the middle of the book, and scanned over the rest. Just too dull after awhile. Really disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I haven't read a book this bad since I read A Separate Peace!! The plot is completely unreal and unrelatable. The only reason it lasted about 500 pages was because of all the unnecessary and pointless details. Although people claim its a comedy, I could have sworn it was a tragedy I was crying to the end of the book for having to read it. If you can, avoid reading this book AT ALL COSTS!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
to the historical record and a laugh out loud throughout. I went on to read every other book Boyle wrote and enjoyed them all!