Sweetness #9: A Novel - Stephan Eirik Clark

Wow, this one hit home. And I’m not sure if it’s because I’m from New Jersey, my sister is a scientist, or I am a fan of Splenda, but any combination of those things would have piqued my interest in this book.


I wasn’t so sure about the New Jersey thing. Partway through the book I convinced myself that the author must have worked for a large pharmaceutical company, or was, at the very least, from NJ. Thinking about it a little more, I realized that it was not so much a novel about New Jersey as one that took place in New Jersey. Aside from a lot of town name-dropping, the story really could have taken place anywhere; it just so happens that New Jersey is home to so many pharmaceutical companies that it had to take place here to give it authenticity.


This is not a book to read as you sip your artificially sweetened soda, or stir splenda into your flavored tea. After reading it, you will cringe as you pass the packaged food aisles in the grocery store — you may even think twice about entering the grocery store at all. It was, for me, a wake-up call. So yes, I know you are thinking, it’s a novel, right? Yes. And no. Because of course there is a lot in this book that is obviously fiction, but the main points echo a truth we really can’t deny. It is making me think twice. I stopped buying splenda, and I am going to do my best to cut it out of my Dunkin Donuts order… I am going to be looking much more carefully at the things I buy, especially the things I feed my kids. I will have to re-read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and remember the resolve I felt after I read that book.


Ok, I feel bad now; I got a little carried away. It is a novel after all. In fact, it is a well-written one, with a terrific cast of characters who moved me. The plot was clever and compelling, though the action flagged a bit at times when it followed some odd tangents. The author has an incredible gift for similes, which always impresses me – it is a skill to use them in a seamless way. I don’t always think this way, but I did think this book would make a terrific movie. When I looked at the author’s bio (not from NJ by the way, far off), I did see he was a screenwriter, so maybe this will be something to look for as well. It may be a little painful, if like me, you read it with your kindle resting on an ever-increasing waistline, but maybe it will be more than just a novel, maybe it will be a call to action. And maybe, we will all be better off having read it.