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 of the 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.