Take chocolate candy, add a family business at war with itself, and stir with an outsider’s perspective. This is the recipe for True Confections, the irresistible new novel by Katharine Weber, a writer whose work has won accolades from Iris Murdoch, Madeleine L’Engle, Wally Lamb, and Kate Atkinson, to name a few.
Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky’s marriage into the Ziplinsky family has not been unanimously celebrated. Her greatest ambition is to belong, to feel truly entitled to the heritage she has tried so hard to earn. Which is why Zip’s Candies is much more to her than just a candy factory, where she has worked for most of her life. In True Confections, Alice has her reasons for telling the multigenerational saga of the family-owned-and-operated candy company, now in crisis.
Nobody is more devoted than Alice to delving into the truth of Zip’s history, starting with the rags-to-riches story of how Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky developed his famous candy lines, and how each of his candies, from Little Sammies to Mumbo Jumbos, was inspired by an element in a stolen library copy of Little Black Sambo, from which he taught himself English. Within Alice’s vivid and persuasive account (is her unreliability a tactic or a condition?) are the stories of a runaway slave from the cacao plantations of Côte d’Ivoire and the Third Reich’s failed plan to establish a colony on Madagascar for European Jews.
Richly informed, deeply moving, and spiked with Weber’s trademark wit, True Confections is, at its heart, a timeless and universal story of love, betrayal, and chocolate.
Weber does superb work with Alice. Like all good narrators, she isn't entirely trustworthy, but she's articulate, critical and thoroughly engaged, such interesting company that the reader may not need to know whether that adolescent house-burning was really an accident. She's a formidable woman, and her story doesn't hinge on a Big Reveal. True Confections isn't a rollicking novel, since Alice isn't the rollicking type, but it's got everything: humor, treachery, class struggle, racism, murder, capitalism and mass quantities of candy. Dieting readers may suffer. Others, after turning the last page, may find themselves online, researching the origins of their own dimly remembered childhood treats…The business of America is candy. True Confections is a great American tale.