I wanted to start this review off with the observation that as a Vegan I found this book hard to read, not simply because I’m squeamish, but because I have looked into what is in prepared food and I am all too aware of the real-world consequences of it. So, on to the review.
A lot of other people who read and reviewed this book apparently found it really funny. I did not. I found it overwhelmingly sad. David Leveraux has a lot of issues, and one of his main ones is to be emotionally distant. He believes that his problems stem from his failure to act in 1972 when he began his career as a flavorist working on flavor #9, or The Nine as it is widely known in the industry. At the time he noticed the way it affected the rats and monkeys it was being tested on. He stated his fears and was fired. He was subsequently hired for another flavor company and continued working in the industry. Even after seeing the harmful effects that #9 is having on his family, David says nothing, simply refusing to take any kind of action to protect the ones that he presumably loves.
This book takes us into the food industry and shows how little testing is required by the FDA to get food additives and/or sweeteners approved; and how the industry is fluid with employees moving between the FDA and the industry and back again. This part of the novel is actually fact, and a problematic fact at that. It is at this point, and others that the novel brings up real-life concerns.
Without going into detail, this book shows the reader a family that completely comes undone by forces both out of its’ control and by what one member of the family did control. The one member of the family that could have made a difference within the family dynamics refused to act until it was almost too late. While the impact of that omission blew the family apart, by the end of the book, the family members had reconfigured in a new way.
I would recommend reading Sweetness #9, however, I hope that if you take away anything from this book, it’s a new knowledge of how the FDA works. Even though the food industry is portrayed here in fiction, the fiction isn’t too far from fact. And, please, use this novel as a way to find out just what is in your food, and the potential threats it can have to your health.