Shaye Areheart (Crown), Dec 29 2009, $22.00
Ever since she accidentally burned down the home of a classmate as a teen during a temper rage, Alice Tatnall has just wanted to be accepted as a person and not as “Arson Girl”. The incident cost her a college scholarship and forced her to accept work at Zip Candies. There she meets the confectioner’s heir Howard "Howdy" Ziplinsky, ten years older than her and Jewish. They fall in love and marry, but she remains ostracized by the family as the “Arson Girl”. Two kids (Julie and Jacob) and working diligently at Zip Candies apparently is not enough to overcome that one transgression even though over three decades have passed.
In an affidavit, the fiftyish Alice explains the history of the company that she cherishes. Zip’s was started by impoverished Hungarian immigrant Eli Czaplinsky who developed his famous first candies like Little Sammies and Mumbo Jumbos from teaching himself English after stealing a copy of the controversial Little Black Sambo from the library. She further explains connections to a runaway slave, Nazis and the Little Susies crisis as well as her relationship with Howard who is in Madagascar while she battles his avaricious sister Irene who plans a hostile takeover in order to strip the company of its assets for her personal gain.
Using a legal affidavit as a neat gimmick to tell the tale of a candy company and its extended owning family, True Confections is a delightful story that is at its best when the plot pulls no punches as it explores racism in the confectionary world. The cast is solid though seen through the filter of Alice who at times cleverly hesitates on her true confessions re confections. This is a deep look at a person who has found her life making candy and the company that she cherishes; especially the roots.