How one woman’s search to regain her health led her to the troubling outer fringes of the Queensland wellness industry.
A university athlete, Jacqueline Alnes’s season was cut short by a series of inexplicable neurological symptoms. What started with a cough escalated to a collapse on the track and months of episodes that stole her ability to walk and even speak. Two years after quitting the team to heal, Alnes’s symptoms returned with a severity that led to months in a wheelchair but left doctors mystified.
Desperate for answers, she turned to an online community centred around two wellness gurus – Queensland’s ‘Durianrider’ and his then-girlfriend ‘Freelee the Banana Girl’ – who claimed that a strict, all-fruit diet could cure conditions like depression, addiction, anxiety and vision problems. Alnes wasn’t alone. From all over the world, people in pain, doubted or dismissed by medical authorities, or seeking a miracle diet, turned to fruit in hope of a cure.
In The Fruit Cure, Jacqueline Alnes takes readers on a spellbinding and unforgettable journey through the fringe world of fruitarianism. A powerful personal narrative, it is also a damning inquiry into the sinister strains of wellness culture that prey on people’s vulnerabilities through schemes, scams and diets masquerading as hope.
Jacqueline Alnes is a writer, runner, and assistant professor of creative writing. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Guernica, Jezebel, Longreads, Ploughshares, Tin House, Electric Literature, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere. In 2017, her essay ‘I Remember, I Re-re-remember’ was selected as runner-up in the Black Warrior Review Nonfiction Contest by Hanif Abdurraqib, who described Alnes’s writing as ‘a complex narrative about the fragility of the body, and the ways in which it can fail us, or dare us to remain triumphant in spite of its failing.’ She served as nonfiction editor of The Portland Review, holds a PhD in creative writing from Oklahoma State University, and an MFA in nonfiction from Portland State University. Find her at: www.jacquelinealnes.com
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia (November 1, 2023)
Length: 336 pages
Raves and Reviews
‘Like an episode of Maintenance Phase meets the essay collection The Empathy Exams, The Fruit Cure brings both rigorous reporting and fearless self-examination to bear on questions far beyond health, athletics, wellness, and food. What Alnes is interested in here is nothing less than the mysterious relationship between our thinking minds and our physical selves and the essential joyful horror that is having a human body.’
– Emma Copley Eisenberg, author of The Third Rainbow Girl
‘The Fruit Cure is an eye-opening, at turns heartbreaking, and long overdue reckoning of wellness culture – the scammy cures, miracle diets, and broken systems that operate like an elaborate MLM scheme, ensnaring people in an endless pursuit of promised cures. Part memoir, part cultural critique, Alnes takes us on a relatable journey through the world of fruitarianism and introduces us to a cast of complicated characters behind the raw food lifestyle. It’s a fantastic look at wellness and diet culture and the influencer economy, all done with nuance, humor, and empathy.’
– Christine Yu, author of Up to Speed
‘Weaving a deeply vulnerable personal narrative into a larger historical story of dieting, harmful pseudoscience, and trendy health fads, Alnes connects our current societal obsession with control to a long history of the constant betrayal of people’s simple desire to get better. I have never been more compelled by a book, and I have never felt more moved by the offering of a self – honest, tender, and vulnerable – that Alnes presents.’
– Devin Kelly, author of In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen and Blood on Blood
‘The Fruit Cure presents a type of human trajectory we don’t consider enough: how we took the emerging cultural possibility of being selective about how we eat, and how we might manage our well-being through diet, and turned it back into an unhealthy and extreme practice. Alnes’s book is an eye-opening journey into how isolating the pursuit of health can be when our society does not keep an open mind and inclusive practice that prioritizes care, and the dangers that come with the push toward individualism.’
– Casey Johnston, editor, She’s A Beast Newsletter and author, Liftoff: Couch to Barbell