The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket

Avery. Sept. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780553459395. $27. BUS
In his latest work, Lorr (Hell-Bent) offers a stark perspective on the grocery system that average American shoppers likely don’t consider. The book’s aim to shed light on the human toll of our grocery system is timely and important. Individual stories that comprise the bulk of the volume focus on various people within the food industry, from the founder of Trader Joe’s and product developers to lumpers and truck drivers, inviting readers to get to know their struggles, triumphs, and colorful personalities. And while these people are compelling and their contributions memorable, their accounts don’t always effectively connect to the broader grocery ecosystem. Lorr includes insight into the behind-the-scenes of the grocery industry, including auditing and dynamics, but book would have benefited from a stronger overarching structure and smoother transitions to make connections between roles within the system clearer.
VERDICT Lorr succeeds in raising awareness of the people who make our food systems possible and the conditions in which they live and work. Yet the stories do not always effectively cohere to create a well-rounded narrative.
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