Alice’s adventures in Candy Land

We can’t ask Mr. Starbuck; he’s a fictional character.  But I suspect that other folks bearing popular brand surnames–the Heinzes, Bayers, Disneys, Wrigleys, Ferraris, etc.–would report favorably on that situation.  

It’s not just the money.  Sharing dynastic credit for entertaining, conveying, or comforting one’s fellow man would be immensely satisfying.  Most enviable of all:  internal access to product development, marketing strategy, and closely guarded assembly line processes.  In Katharine Weber’s new True Confections, the fictional Alice Ziplinsky documents her privileged point of view (she marries the heir apparent to Zip’s Candies) so vividly that I felt I’d sampled every part of the experience except the actual product.  

In Alice’s case, she doesn’t just marry into a family fortune, she binds herself to a tribe’s changing fortunes involving a span of 85 years.  Weber chose the Ziplinsky family’s commodity wisely.  As Steve Almond effectively chronicled in Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, candy bar trends, names, and advertising evolved to reflect America’s social history.  Zip’s confections, too, must contend with changing perceptions just as the younger generation inevitably deals with consequences of choices made in bygone days, some more justifiable than others. 

If, like me, you’re fascinated by the insider peeks at candy bar manufacture, trade show gossip, and assembly line jargon, you’ll find that facet sufficient reason to pick up True Confections.  But Alice is also a wonderful character study as she progresses from needy, approval-seeking outsider to fully engaged visionary.  She possesses sufficient quirks to hold her own with the in-laws, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to share her passion for confectionary production. 

Readers who enjoyed Jeanne Ray’s Julie and Romeo, Judith Ryan Hendricks’ Bread Alone, or Adriana Trigiani’s Very Valentine likely reveled in the vicarious satisfaction of visualizing and creating unique products.  You can anticipate that experience again with True Confections.  Don’t bother to locate a bookmarker, though; use one of the candy wrappers that you’re sure to empty as you’re reading.

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