In this winning, offbeat tale, Weber unfurls Alice Tatnall’s insecure Unitarian adolescence, which leads to her approval-seeking adulthood as the wife of candy heir Howard “Howdy” Ziplinsky. Alice has felt ostracized by family and peers after accidentally burning down a classmate’s house as a teenager. As a result, her college acceptance is rescinded, and she ends up working at Zip’s Candies, where she meets and falls in love with the owner’s son, a Jewish man 10 years her senior. After marrying Howard, Alice takes to the candy business quickly and has two kids. Alice’s story, framed as an affidavit, is a pleasure to read and full of small and not so small surprises, including the near-tragedy at the candy company that has much to do with why she’s writing an affidavit in the first place. Alice is an immediately lovable narrator, and her narration eventually bears hints about its possible lack of credibility, giving readers even more of a reason to keep turning pages. This story of love, life and sweets is a genuine treat. (Dec.)
Sweet and sour tales of life in a New England candy factory. Perhaps Weber wanted to embrace the same premise-intricate oral history of a doomed manufacturing plant, laced with family drama-that underpinned her previous novel (Triangle, 2006, etc.). While similarly amorphous and rambling, this lighter text adds enough satiric bite to make it slightly more palatable. It takes the form of a legal affidavit by Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky, who recalls her 33-year career at the Zip's Candies factory, starting with her initial infatuation. "A certain burnt sugar and chocolate aroma hung in the air, that marvelous, inevitable, ineffable, just-right aura of Zip's Candies, that unique blend of sweetness and pleasure and something else, a deep note of something rich and exotic and familiar . . . I have loved that smell every day of my life from then to now," Alice confesses. After revealing herself as the local "Arson Girl" who burned down a classmate's house during an adolescent fit, Alice examines her troubled relationship with Howard "Howdy" Ziplinsky, heir to the candy throne, and her subsequent marriage into the convoluted family. The novel's most successful elements are its most uncomfortable ones. Alice reveals trade secrets like the roots of signature product Little Sammies, which take their name from the controversial children's book Little Black Sambo, and the company-ending Little Susies, a white confection snuggled uncomfortably between two Little Sammies, attracting charges of racism. Weber's pointed deconstruction of the beloved children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is also bracing. Unfortunately, the narrative frequently bogs down in interminable, long-winded accounts ofthe family history and the subsequent fight for control between Howdy and his greedy sister Irene, ending in yet another conflagration. Too often wastes the tasty potential of its sticky setting.