Every now and again, some nonfiction comes along that TOTALLY captures me. First it was Devil in the White City, then it was Maximum City, and now it's Sweet and Low, by Rich Cohen.
Like the jacket says, "Millionaires. Mobsters. Power. Corruption. Fraud. Scandal. Saccharin". (And an A-Z Read!)
I love when I learn stuff. Like Canarsie used to be a swamp where the mob dumped bodies. Like the sugar packet wasn't invented until the late 1940s. Like Saccharine isn't a carcinogen (What!)
This is a family tragedy of epic proportions. It's a study of that 3 generation theory. He who is hungry builds the business. Next in line holds the fort. Next in line watches it all float away. While that isn't exactly what happens here, the reader cannot help but feel badly for patriarch Ben, who though quite unlikeable, really built something from nothing. Imagine watching your son screw the whole thing up.
Post war NYC has always fascinated me, and though it sounds cliche, I will say it ... the city is a character in itself. After living here for a decade, I feel an uncomfortable kinship with NYC, and I delight in reading about it.
Cohen's style is incredibly readable. Though I slow down for nonfiction, I was compelled to have at it until it was finished (3 days of commuting). I loved it. My colleagues are probably sick of hearing about it, but Sweet and Low is one of those books that makes me say, "No really...listen to this! You won't believe this!"
Just read it!