No candy-coated tell-all
When Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky takes a job at Zip’s Candies, she sets in motion the events that will dominate the rest of her life: her leadership in a dysfunctional family business; her defense of accidental chocolate-provoked racism; her husband’s liaisons in Madagascar. Who ever knew that candy could cause so much drama?
True Confections is told in the form of an affidavit, and there is no shortage of scandal in this darkly funny novel. When we meet Alice, the affidavit’s author, she is deep in the middle of a family feud. Her father-in-law, the CEO of Zip’s Candies, has left her a considerable share in the business, and the family isn’t happy about it. To defend her stake in Zip’s, Alice writes a history of the company, emphasizing her devotion to its success.
Alice’s account is filled with absurdities. Zip’s founder, Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky, calls his candies “Little Sammies,” “Tigermelts” and “Mumbo Jumbos”—all references to characters from Little Black Sambo, the racially charged children’s book. After Alice joins the company, she helps create the ill-fated “Bereavemint” line, which is marketed to funeral homes. Later, an employee spots the Virgin Mary in a chocolate sculpture created from drips off of a production nozzle, and Zip’s makes local headlines. If these scenes sound bizarre . . . well, they are. They’re also compulsively readable, punctuated by Alice’s wry commentary and behind-the-scenes details of the candy industry.
In past novels, Katharine Weber’s narrators have communicated through a letter and a diary; in True Confections, Alice speaks through a first-person legal document. It’s an unusual medium, but one that succeeds—we like and trust Alice, our guide, but we suspect that her tale is a little tall. By the end of the novel, it doesn’t really matter whether Alice is telling the truth; her storytelling ability trumps our disbelief. Plus, “Candy makes people happy,” as her father-in-law would often say. It turns out that books about candy do, too.