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The Road to Wellville

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  6,040 ratings  ·  426 reviews
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 se

Paperback, 496 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Penguin Books (first published 1993)
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 ·  6,040 ratings  ·  426 reviews

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Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
This fat, picaresque novel focuses on the elite but quackish sanitarium run by Dr JH Kellogg in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the early days of breakfast cereals. Kellogg was a powerful orator, a staunch vegetarian and a proponent of the kind of health fads that we'd nowadays class as alternative medicine; he also had some morbidly puritanical ideas about sex (cornflakes, famously, were originally intended to stop people masturbating – on what principle, I'm not sure, unless he planned to scatter t ...more
Donna  Napier
Jul 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
TC Boyle is one of my favorite authors because I simply fall in love with his sentences. The man writes such incredible sentences! The Road to Wellville is a captivating story, too, so between the brilliant sentence structure and the fascinating story line, I was spellbound until the ending. Unfortunately, like other TC Boyle novels I've read, the ending missed the mark for me. It seems that Boyle paints himself into a corner and then just decides that the only way out is to walk back across the ...more
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I'd be hard-pressed to name another author who so effectively combines humor with dread. In every book by T.C. Boyle – this one included – I cringe as I read because I know some horrible reckoning will befall most of the main characters, but the journey to that reckoning is so frequently punctuated with humor and absurdity that I feel terrible enjoying these characters' downfalls so damn much.

Like so many of Boyle's other books, The Road to Wellvil
Carla Remy
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
A very interesting story of the hilarious Edwardian Patent Medication Situation, Sanitariums and the Breakfast Food Bubble with its Cereal Profiteers, set in 1907 at the Kelllogg Health Spa in Battle Creek, Michigan. Based on real life history. But I am unable to fully say I enjoyed this. Because I can not understand why this book is so long (Penguin paperback 476 pages). Not that much happens and it doesn't span that much time. I would remove at least a third. There is a good book in there. ...more
Aug 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Done to a turn, like a Porterhouse steak, grilled to a perfect medium rare. Or should I say: "like a Protose Pattie perfectly congealed." This is an excellent, well-written, funny novel about Kellogg and Battle Creek in its heyday. An incredible amount of research must have been undertaken in order to craft such a classic piece of American fiction. I don't know how TC Boyle does it. Like his book on the Kinseys, he writes with so much confidence and factual detail you'd think he'd lived in these ...more
Read this so long ago that all i can remember is that i started skeptical and warmed up fast to this relevant spoof
Chance Lee
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Road to Wellville is an at-times fascinating, at-times dull historical fiction about John Harvey Kellogg and his cult-like following of health nuts at the turn of the century. The fascinating parts are really fascinating and the dull parts are, thankfully, not that dull, thanks to T.C. Boyle's expertise with the English language. If thinks had moved along at a brisker pace, it would have held my attention better.

This is billed as a comic novel, but maybe the long passages made me too drowsy
Feb 12, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars, really, but goodreads' war on subtlety continues. as a stylistic exercise this is a triumph. as an actual novel, something south of there, although not like antarctica south. very much in the vein of new yorker humor articles -- where my response is "ah, i see this person is making a joke" as opposed to actually laughing or feeling amused. there were a few exceptions: the repetition of "womb manipulation" toward the end gets pretty funny. but a lot of the other stuff really felt formu ...more
Sep 21, 2009 rated it liked it
This is one of those hard to rate books. It's funny and the subject and time period are surprising and compelling to me. But after a certain point, the story just stops moving forward. To stereotype wildly, this seems to happen to me often with modern fiction- I like the characters and the story, but somewhere in the middle things just start to amble, and the thing ends up being 400 pages for no good reason.

Historical fiction is so weird, anyway. Somewhere in the middle of this, I thought "why
Joseph D'Lacey
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My judgement is utterly coloured by that fact that I saw the film adaptation first and adored it.

There was never any chance that the novel could live up to the memories I already had in my mind's eye when reading it. So, for me at least, this is one of those very rare occasions upon which the film gets five stars, the book only four.

T. C. Boyle is an accomplished and skilful novelist, whose ability to make the past seem real and immediate is extraordinary. However, in terms of pace, Alan Parker
Jan 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I can see how this would make a nice movie. There are some humorous scenes in it for sure. But the author became extremely redundant. Yes, I get it that the patients at Dr. Kellogg's sanitarium undergo enemas multiple times per day, have starvation-level vegetarian diets prescribed to them, are forbidden to have sex, and engage in many other unorthodoxed treatments. After half the book was over, these facts were being rehashed over and over and over when the author could have just resolved the b ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Remembering the failed movie based on The Road to Wellville (that I didn’t see until it was on television and, even then, it was sliced up for broadcast television (Remember? Before streaming and broadband capabilities? You had to wait until someone put the film on the air.)), I don’t know quite how it failed with the fabulous casting. Bridgett Fonda was the perfect image of the beautiful, wealthy, self-indulgent, and slightly frigid spouse of Matthew Broderick as the frustrated husband trying t ...more
Jan 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who think organic foods are so edgy
Shelves: fiction, 2010-list, 3-5
Battle Creek, Michigan.

The American bourgeois were lining up to get top treatments for their sick, frail bodies at the Sanatorium. Most of them suffered the same ailment: their colons were shot to hell. The man in charge (and who could save them) was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. Surgeon, inventor, author, cap'n of industry. His methods were simple but very challenging.
Stop eating meat, stop drinking, stop smoking. Don't worry. The menu in the San living room would make you want to forget those
Patrick Barry
Feb 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
I struggled mightily with the story of a Kellogg brother who ran a health sanitarium in Battle Creek Michigan. There were more flakes in the story than the cereal and I found none of the characters likable. Maybe I might have enjoyed it more if I had read it near the time of publication when vegan sensibilities were less prominent. The book was a long one, but in the end I felt like Fauna the wolf, given a lot to eat, but no meat.
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There isn't a TC Boyle book that I don't love. This one seems like a cut from today; rather, than a book about the past. Doctors revered as gods, money buying health, a thousand hucksters out there hustling so we call all live forever....I mean. ...more
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
You expect a certain amount of snarkiness from Boyle, and Wellville doesn't dissapoint, but I found no glee in it, as I did in Drop City, or Budding Prospects, or even Water Music. I kept thinking what a marvelous writer he is, yet how unfortunate his choice of stories and characters are. I get it that Kellog's sanitarium and its regimens were for the turn of the century's health nuts, and that many of its practices were misguided and downright dangerous in some cases. I get that there were huck ...more
David DeValera
Feb 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Road to Wellville is a story of people in search of Organic Grace. Dr. Kellogg's followers believe they suffer from the visceral accumulation of toxic sludge brought on by years of improper diet. Since the rigors of eating were never mastered better than by the great Cleansed Colon himself, Dr. Kellogg, they follow his every command. They scour their colons, blast out their bowels, purge their way to purity--yet, despite the daily intrusions to their lower orifices', they still end up diggin ...more
Kayla Roth
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
(If 4.5 rating were possible)

I started reading this book in California upon recommendation from a friend knowing nothing about it and quickly got pulled into the narrative. Then I borrowed it and left it on a plane. I rarely pick up fiction, but from winter to summer the near 500 pages begged me to finish them. The story dragged on a bit (with weird twists) near the end. Overall, the characters and their different perspectives were entertaining and the book is well-written.

It's historical fict
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's always hard for me to get behind a T.C. Boyle book 100% because there's something about his writing style that throws me off. However, there's no denying his ability to take some relatively obscure corner of American history and throw light on it. In this case, it was the start of the breakfast cereal industry, the rivalry between Kellogg´s and Post, and the trendy boon in the health-food industry of the early 20th century as well. This is delightfully quirky book about something that's an ...more
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating story.... Boyle has such a magnificent way with words...
Ian Mapp
Oct 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
You have to admire TC Boyle, this is the forth book (after Drop City, Tortilla Curtain and Inner Circle) of his that i have read and they are all different, with different themes and time frames.

This is comedy gold and tells the story of the Kellog family, superbly played by Anthony Hopkins in the film adaptaion.

He runs a sanitarioum in 19th Century smallsville america with some bizarre treatments - mostly based around the bowell and the avoidance of meat, coffee and drink.

Three seperate strorie
Lynn G.
This book is probably a 3.5* rather than a three. An interesting, fictional look at the empire that J.H. Kellogg built around "physiologic" living and an amazing number of enemas; yes, enemas. His highly regarded Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, or "San" as it was popularly called, hosted thousands of "patients" over the years. All of them wealthy, many famous, and all apparently suffering from such complaints as autointoxication, neurasthenia, and, worst of all, the eating of meat. Kellogg ...more
Todd Stockslager
Regardless of how good this book is, my review of it will be forever tainted by the events surrounding my reading of it: I started reading the book just before first visiting my parents to help with my ailing mother, and finished it the day of her funeral just three weeks later. Her death came more quickly than we expected; the end of this book took came more slowly than I expected.

Not that it was a bad book. In fact, it suggests that the real history of Kellog, the Battle Creek sanitorium movem
Marie A.
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
You know, I've given T.C. Boyle a couple of tries now. In both cases (the other was Drop City, which I liked slightly better), I found myself vaguely interested and vaguely irritated, in equal measure. In both cases, he gives us a utopian experiment pulled down by the most banal of human flaws (which, I suppose, is the real tragedy: at our worst, we're not so much "evil" or even "bad" as we are distressingly petty and self-involved). In each, he draws his characters with some depth, but you can' ...more
I enjoyed this book immensely, but was certainly less than objective, because they were filming the movie version across the Hudson River from where I was living at the time, and both my father and myself had been chosen at extras in the film, (look for me as the out of focus bellboy between Anthony Hopkins and Dana Carvey when they first meet in the hotel lobby!). But I think I would have enjoyed it in any case...bizarre tale but very funny, and written with Boyle's expected elegance.

(BTW, Anth
Daniel Taylor
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
TC Boyle has taken the historical figure John Harvey Kellogg who founded a bizarre health spa and invented cornflakes and has created an intelligent novel set at the spa.

Eleanor Lightbody has been to the spa twice before and, like all well-meaning wives, has decided her husband, Will, will benefit from Kellogg's health miracles. Kellogg is written as authoritarian monomaniac with grandiose delusions about his power over his patients' lives.

The satirical read is entertaining, intelligent and fun
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
It started great, wonderful premise and colourful writing. But then it just went on and on without actually going anywhere. (Needed a bit of roughage to move things through. Or at least a good edit to cut to the chase.) I persevered but by midway it set me on the road to Snoozeville. Finally gave up and didn't finish. I'd recommend Boyle's terrific Talk Talk instead, or the Inner Circle.

I haven't seen the movie, would be interested to see how/if the film snapped it into shape.
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
TC Boyle is Brilliant as always. What I found most fascinating about this novel is it examined the beginnings of the health food movement... a crazy doctor semonizing on a specific diet and way of life and the people who follow him like sheep. It made me think about today's health craze...the things that I believe to be very healthy but in 100 years may be considered misinformed. What also interested me were the things Dr. Kellogg said were healthy, and thinking to today, what aspects of a healt ...more
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
I like Boyle's writing, perhaps even more in this one than others, but like some of his other historical based works, it seemed like most of the action was a foregone conclusion from the beginning. It was interesting and rich in detail, but it could have been a fourth the length and only missed out on the amount of detail the reader got to see. The same things would have happened to the characters, the same things that were expected from the beginning. I suppose it was more to sketch out Kellogg ...more
May 07, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Truly, I didn't think it was possible that a book would ever have too much scatological humor for me to enjoy. But I just couldn't get into my first TC Boyle read. Maybe if I'd been emotionally engaged in either loving or hating the characters getting enemas? But nothing compelled me to read past page 100. And my friends, there are too many books and too little time to spend reading something that doesn't move you in one way or another. ...more
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History, Medicine...: turn of the century sanatoriums 2 34 Oct 20, 2011 02:39PM  

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T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published seventeen novels and eleven collections of short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World's End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York. He is married with three children. Boyle has been a Distinguished Professor of English at the ...more

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